Amazing Students

Brittany Whitlock

Brittany Whitlock came to UGA looking for a way to serve others in a meaningful way. And she soon found that she could make a big IMPACT. The future medical doctor’s focus is on the intersection of social justice and health care.

Hometown:

Johns Creek, Ga.

High School:

Chattahoochee High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in biology, B.S. in psychology

Expected graduation:

May 2016

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

The story of my college career has been one about the pursuit of meaning, contribution and community in an environment of overwhelming possibility. My freshman year, I came into college knowing I wanted to use my life to serve others in a meaningful way, but didn’t have the slightest clue of how to do that. After testing out dozens of organizations, I found my fit after participating on a Children’s Advocacy IMPACT Service Breaks trip during spring break.  The trip legitimately changed my life and propelled me into a world of social activism, justice and advocacy that has defined my time at UGA.

As a premedical student, my primary focus has been on the intersection of social justice and health care. I have learned so much through my continued involvement in IMPACT Service Breaks, which both gets students involved in service and educates about a variety of social justice issues. As a sophomore, I co-led a trip to Philadelphia focusing on disability/ability awareness. The following year, I coordinated the experience of nearly 500 students as the executive board’s participant coordinator. This year, I am honored to serve as IMPACT’s executive coordinator. My involvement in this organization is by far the college achievement I am most proud of! IMPACT inspires our generation to be leaders of the future, and there are few things that I believe in more than that. I try to live every day by our motto: “Service is love made visible.”

I have also been very lucky to serve as a research assistant in Claire de la Serre’s Gastrointestinal Neurophysiology Laboratory for the past two years. An interest in advocating for maternal health brought me to this lab, where I work on a project that studies gastrointestinal microbiota as a possible vehicle for the inheritance of obesity between mother and child. I have received two scholarships for my work in this lab, including the CURO Research Assistantship and the Carolyn Berdanier Undergraduate Research Grant.

This past summer, I was funded by the Honors College’s HISP Scholarship to travel to Antigua, Guatemala, where I studied the intersections of social change, culture and health care. It was an incredible experience that further expanded my passion for justice and health.
Throughout my time at UGA, I have also enjoyed being a weekly volunteer at Mercy Health Center, singing in UGA Women’s Glee Club and founding an organization called Healthy Living at UGA.

As far as academics go, I’ve been fortunate to lead a successful academic career at UGA. With the help of excellent friends, teachers and mentors, I have managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout my college career. I am a member of several academic honors societies (Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa), and am a recipient of the Zell Miller Scholarship.

Finally (and perhaps most excitingly), I was just accepted to medical school this fall!

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first of my family to attend UGA, but not the last! One of my younger brothers just started here as a freshman, and there are potentially two more to follow. We are slowly converting the whole bunch!

I chose to attend UGA because…

… it felt like home! I toured several college campuses as a high school senior, but none of them welcomed me the way that the University of Georgia did. I was sold by the fact that I could enjoy a small-scale community as a student in the Honors College and still take advantage of the vast resources, flexibility and opportunities offered by attending a school of UGA’s size. I hoped that I would have the best of both worlds, and I got all of that and more! Being a student at UGA has pushed me to grow personally and professionally in ways that I never could have predicted as an incoming freshman.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

Anyone who knows me knows that my home on campus is in the IMPACT Service Breaks office in the Center for Leadership and Service. Whenever I have time between classes or need to take a study break, I make a beeline for the office. It is a place that is inevitably always filled with laughter, food, merriment and the people I have come to know as my “UGA family” during my time in college.

I love spending time in our office not just because of the fun that is had, but because of the enriching conversations that I get to engage in with other students there. It is within those four walls that my worldview during college has expanded, my beliefs have been challenged, and my passions have been kindled. It is the kind of worldly dialogue that my high school self dreamed about when thumbing through college brochures!

For me, spending time in the IMPACT office has been a perfect illustration of the idea that the key to thriving at a big institution at UGA is finding a community that helps make it smaller. No matter what adventures I go on or how many new things I try, my IMPACT family is my rock that I always come back to!

When I have free time, I like…

… going for a run outdoors. Athens is a FANTASTIC running town — it is one of the biggest things I will miss when I have the unfortunate task of leaving. No matter what mood I’m in, there is always a beautiful place to run. Some of my favorite courses are through the Bloomfield residential historic district, through the streets of downtown on a Saturday morning (I love seeing people going to the farmers market!), or through the many trails at the State Botanical Garden.

The craziest thing I've done is…

… going caving in the jungles of Guatemala with only a very elementary knowledge of Spanish. I studied abroad in Guatemala this summer, and we decided that our first weekend adventure as a group together would be to a place called Semuc Champey. It required a somewhat treacherous eight-hour bus ride through crumbling roads to get there, and after a killer hike and swim we decided we’d go caving together. The catch? Our only light source through the pitch black caves was a single, homemade wax candle per person. We had to climb up waterfalls and swim through deep waters while carrying these dripping wax candles in our mouths! Meanwhile the tour guides were shouting all kinds of instructions at me in Spanish, and all I could understand at that point was “It’s easy, it’s easy, don’t be scared!” Shockingly, that didn’t do much to convince me that I wasn’t at the brink of death. Luckily we made it out alive, but it’s a memory I will never forget!

My favorite place to study is…

… the secret desk tucked behind shelves of books on the seventh floor of the main library. I was shown this space as a freshman by an upperclassman and it has been my favorite ever since — it is completely silent and has a view that overlooks the entire campus. It’s strikingly beautiful and a perfect visual reminder to be grateful for where I am, no matter how stressful my study material is.

My favorite professor is…

… an impossible title to give. I’ve had the fortune of being taught and mentored by so many fantastic individuals at UGA that highlighting only one is impossible.

There are several professors who I would love to offer special recognition. As a sophomore, I took Maria Navarro’s class “Reflections on Fighting Global Hunger,” and it entirely transformed my worldview. The class expanded my understanding of global issues and introduced me to academia on development that I hadn’t even realized exists. Dr. Navarro quickly became one of my biggest role models, as she is an incredible professor, researcher, mother and agent for global change. Her lessons from her travels and work abroad kept me excited to come to class every day. Not only that, but her class gave me the opportunity to do work that was truly meaningful to me. The research project I wrote in that class is what ultimately inspired me to travel abroad to Guatemala, where I was able to continue those investigations on the global progress of maternal health care. She is an incredible inspiration and resource for all of her students.

Karl Espelie, my academic adviser, has also had a huge impact on my college career. I still believe the best advice I ever received as a premedical student was to build a relationship with him. Never before have I met someone so wholly dedicated to their students’ success. I am endlessly grateful for the hours of advising, dinners at his home and classes we have shared together. Anyone who steps into his office and sees the hundreds of photos of him with his students from over the years will know that he is an invaluable person on this campus. Thank you, Dr. E!

I’d also like to thank Richard Morrison, who taught me what it means to be a dedicated student; Sylvia Hutchinson, who has become a role model for me on how to lead a life of grace and dignity; Claire de la Serre, who let me join her research team as a total novice; and Scott Brown, who has been an irreplaceable adviser and friend through endless IMPACT antics.

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

… Dr. Paul Farmer, who is an American humanitarian, physician, anthropologist and founder of the international social justice health organization Partners in Health. I learned about the life and works of Dr. Farmer through his biography, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” by Tracy Kidder. I was astounded by his story and the sheer selflessness he embodies to serve those in need. The work he has done, from crafting a revamped model of global health care with Partners in Health to founding a free-treatment hospital in Haiti that tackles issues of tuberculosis and HIV, has inspired and expanded my vision of the work I could one day do as a physician. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone, pre-med or not! The way Dr. Farmer practices selfless compassion provides life lessons that anyone can walk away with.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… figure out how to design a nationwide health care model that leaves all patients feeling better when they leave than when they arrive. Our country’s current system works well for some people, but far too often it causes patients to leave with unbearable financial burdens, confusing information, inadequate care or experiences of discrimination. I believe that quality health care is a human right, and I want to be someone who pushes our system to reflect that!

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

… live in Spain for a year with my friends. After spending the summer in Guatemala, I’ve caught the Spanish-speaking bug! I would love to have time to relax and adventure with the sole purpose of improving a new language and immersing into another culture. Wouldn’t we all?

After graduation, I plan to…

… become a primary care physician who serves marginalized populations in the United States.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… learning how to make friends that become as close as family. College is a unique experience in that your friends become your entire social world — you live with them, you eat with them, you laugh with them, you cry with them. I will be forever grateful for the relationships that have molded me at UGA!

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