Amazing Students

David Newton

David Newton has wanted to be a physician since he was young, and thanks to research and intern work and community volunteering, he’s well on his way down that path. But it hasn’t been all books and labs — he even tried out for the football team once.

Hometown:

Augusta

High School:

Westminster Schools of Augusta

Degree objective:

Majoring in biology and psychology with a minor in chemistry.

Expected graduation:

May 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

My time at UGA could be characterized as a humbling yet exhilarating work in progress. I’ve had some of the most incredible experiences in my life, and the people I’ve met here have been even more incredible. Many of these friends have been featured on this page, and I am honored to be counted among them. Any successes I’ve had in college can be attributed to these students at UGA who have gone before me. I only hope I’ve successfully paid it forward to younger students to whom I’ve passed along the same advice I once received.

In preparation for a career in medicine, I have seen the ways I’ve matured across my undergraduate years in how I address issues and understand people. My work at Mercy Health Center has been instrumental in this process. Health care availability and poverty alleviation are the foremost social issues I plan to combat as a physician. I have begun this pursuit at Mercy Health Center, a free clinic available to uninsured Athens residents at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Here I have learned to value individuals not for their socioeconomic status but for their inherent worth as human beings. While I ultimately hope to provide medical care to these patients, my goal as a volunteer has been to establish such excellence in our patients’ health care experiences that they may be affirmed in their self-worth.

I currently serve at Mercy as the clinic manager, in which I am responsible for clinic activities during the evenings. In this role I’ve learned how to coordinate with physicians and resolve patient conflicts. Patient care has been as challenging as it is rewarding, but getting to be a part of patients’ health improvements motivates me through the hard work. I hold dear the appreciation that patients have expressed for the care they have received at Mercy, and these moments carry me through the long hours of Friday or Saturday nights spent studying.

Research has been core part of my undergraduate career. This past summer I worked as a primary care research intern with Mercy Health Center and the Economic Evaluation Research Group at UGA. I modeled the impact of this free primary care clinic on reducing hospital usage of uninsured, low-income Athens residents. With the study results, we proposed a strategy to the health center directors for securing grant funding from local hospitals in exchange for reducing the burden of non-emergency usage of emergency departments among uninsured patients. While further research is needed to adequately measure the long-term results of preventative primary care for a population, data analysis proved an effective means for producing mutually beneficial results for both patient care and hospital financial interests. I was able to join this project thanks to generous support of the Ash Service Award. Local communities have and will continue to be a big part of my focus in medicine.

In the summer of 2015, I worked as a clinical research intern for the Joseph M. Still Research Foundation. At the largest burn program in the United States, I operated at the intersection of patient care and clinical research, writing grant proposals, performing statistical analyses and observing the collaborative approach of medicine and research to create the latest standard of care for burn victims. My appreciation for research stems from the positive outcomes I witnessed here as a result of the clinical trials developed by the burn care team.

During my time at UGA, I’ve worked in an organic chemistry research laboratory, devising novel methods to produce biologically active amines. Under Dr. Morrison and his team, I have learned to critically review chemistry publications and develop my own ideas into synthetic schemes.  I have chosen to complete a minor in chemistry to expand my knowledge in the fields of drug design and medicinal chemistry. My experience in both a basic science laboratory and clinical research foundation has laid the groundwork for a prospective career in translational research as a physician. I plan to pursue further research in molecular pharmacology. As pricing of pharmaceuticals has recently come to the forefront of public attention, I hope to be a part of the solution for ensuring patients receive the treatment they need without causing unintended consequences on future research endeavors. This foundation in chemistry has prepared me for this goal.

Though I’ve been determined to fully embrace the academic opportunities afforded by this university, school has not been my only focus. Playing sports and enjoying nature occupy most of my free time. I have to mention that my four-year quest to win an IM championship was finally fulfilled upon completion of this past season of men’s outdoor soccer. I also love to cook, having come in second place in the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival Cooking Competition in 2014 (our dish featured grilled shrimp with a whiskey sriracha maple syrup glaze atop stone ground grits and creamy sauce). Food is one of the easiest ways for me to connect with people, and Athens has greatly facilitated this indulgence. My favorite place in the city is sitting at the upstairs bar at The Place, overlooking North Campus, enjoying a burger and watching college football.

Family Ties to UGA:

UGA has been a strong Newton family tradition. My parents met here, I followed in my older brother’s footsteps, and now my younger sister has recently joined me to begin her freshman year.

I chose to attend UGA because…

… the University of Georgia fulfilled the two criteria I was looking for in a college: SEC football and an uncompromising education. For better or for worse, I prioritized them in that order. Ultimately the decision was easy, as the Zell Miller Scholarship was too good an offer to pass up. UGA greatly benefits from the retention of some of the state’s most competitive high school graduates, evidenced by the ever-increasing GPA and SAT scores of the incoming freshman class. I believe that Zell and Hope are the main contributors to this trend, and I’m excited to see how this school continues to raise the bar. I have never once regretted my decision to stay in my home state, and I feel more than sufficiently prepared to tackle the challenge of medical school wherever I end up.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… grab coffee with a friend, attend an Honors Program Lunchbox Lecture in Moore College and walk through North Campus.

When I have free time, I like…

… to get outside. Hiking and fly fishing are two of my favorite pastimes, and I wish I could do both more often. Spending time in nature is one of the most effective ways for me to relax and collect my thoughts. Despite my intended profession to work closely with people, I find great value in the solitude of the outdoors. It is here that I feel most connected with my faith and have the opportunity for self-reflection.

The craziest thing I've done is…

… try out for the UGA football team. As I mentioned earlier, I was born and raised in the tradition of Georgia football. When I learned of an upcoming walk-on tryout for place kickers last March, I did not pass up the opportunity. I had originally forgone any desire to play collegiate sports during high school, as it had been superseded by my desire to become a physician. But after two years of watching the Dawgs play, I wanted to get back on the field.

I trained for about four months for the tryout. My close friend, a current kicker on the UGA team, directed me on how to make this dream a reality. I followed his stretching routine, lifted weights and replayed videos of my form to perfect my kicking technique.

Balancing this workout regimen with school and MCAT preparation was grueling, and I gained a new respect for all student-athletes. I wasn’t able to convince the coaches to add me to the special teams squad, but I saw vast improvement in my kicking ability and had a blast doing it.

My favorite place to study is…

… either the newly renovated third floor of the science library or the Jittery Joe’s at Five Points. I like to have some background noise in the room when I study, so I go where other people will be around. I guess it’s true that misery loves company.

My favorite professor is…

I’d be remiss not to first mention Karl Espelie as one of the most instrumental people in my undergraduate career. While I’ve had the pleasure of learning from so many incredible professors at this institution, Dr. Espelie stands out as the first professor to believe in my dream to go to medical school before I had any academic performance to back it up. From my first semester here, he was more than willing to sit down for hours at a time to help plan out my four-year strategy. I don’t know how he finds the compassion to listen to the pre-health dreams of so many students; I get tired of hearing my own on a regular basis. But students at medical, dental and physician assistant schools around the country attest his legacy and unwavering commitment to his advisees. But you don’t have to go that far, just ask the next biology and psychology double major you meet.

During my internship at the burn center, Patricia Graham, the CEO of the Joseph M. Still Burn Research Foundation Inc., went above and beyond in her oversight of my work. I look back on my time there and realize how much more I gained from her mentorship than any contributions I made to the program. That summer marked my first experience with clinical research, and I was overwhelmed with the protocols and high expectations of this research environment. Patricia regularly met with me to update me on the projects, fill in gaps in my knowledge, and offer any support I needed. It was her guidance and passion that has inspired my continued involvement with medical research.

Dr. Morrison and Dr. Jackson also served as incredible mentors for my introduction to research. They always ensured that my fellow undergraduate researchers and I had a proper comprehension of the chemistry work we were performing. I greatly respected how they included us in the planning and troubleshooting of our reactions. It certainly would have been easier to give us directions to follow instead of guiding us through the critical thinking needed to get the desired results. I feel prepared to take the skills I learned in this lab to the future problems I will tackle via research, whether it be on a lab bench or in an exam room.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Nelson Mandela. To me the most inspiring events in human history are acts of forgiveness. Mr. Mandela stands out as someone who overcame the incredible injustices of apartheid and imprisonment to promote reconciliation instead of revenge. He was once asked, “When you were leaving prison after 27 years and walking down that road to freedom, didn’t you hate them all over again?” Mr. Mandela responded, “Absolutely I did, because they’d imprisoned me for so long. I was abused. I didn’t get to see my children grow up. I lost my marriage and the best years of my life. I was angry. And I was afraid, because I had not been free in so long. But as I got closer to the car that would take me away, I realized that when I went through that gate, if I still hated them, they would still have me. I wanted to be free. And so I let it go.” I respect this response so much, and I would seek out his wisdom on how to approach and mend the racial issues of contemporary society.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… construct a health care system that provided affordable and accessible care to all patients while continuing to foster innovation in medicine. Obviously this issue is incredibly complex, but I’m glad to see we are addressing the gaps in our current system. It will always be a delicate balance to offer inexpensive health care while simultaneously encouraging investments in its future development. I’ll leave it up to people far smarter than I am to figure out how, but if I couldn’t fail, I’d take on the challenge.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… travel the world and observe different practices of medicine in different cultures. Visiting other countries and cultures offers a great opportunity to learn from different perspectives and approaches to patient care. Understanding a patient’s value system is just as important as knowing the science behind the medicine if a physician wants to see change in a patient’s life. I want to connect with patients in a meaningful way, and having a diverse and well-rounded experience betters the chances to make this happen.

After graduation, I plan to…

… attend medical school. Becoming a physician has been a dream of mine since I was young, and seeing this dream unfold has been so rewarding. At this moment I’m not set on any particular field of medicine, as I’ve found interesting many of the specialties I’ve shadowed. The important aspects that I evaluate in each field are the amount of direct patient contact and the ability to have a sustained relationship with a patient over time. These are the qualities that initially led me to medicine and continue to inspire my passion.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… holding the UGA banner as the football team broke through it during the Missouri night game. This experience stands out among the rest as one that gives me chills every time I reminisce about it. During my junior year, I served as a member of the Arch Society, and we have the privilege of helping out with the pregame ceremony of home football games. The stadium atmosphere was electric that night, and I distinctly remember where I was standing in the east end zone. I looked over to the student section and panned to the rest of the Sanford crowd, profoundly recognizing that I was part of something much greater than myself. It is still difficult to put into words, but in that moment I felt a complete connection to the University of Georgia. Also I fist-bumped Todd Gurley that night, an event worth noting in my obituary.

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