'I always wanted to go to med school. Then I found something I love even MORE.'
PLU senior Lauren Thiele has always wanted to make positive change in the world. It’s why, for as long as she could remember, she wanted to go to medical school. It’s also why she came to PLU.
“A lot of it is the social justice aspect of medicine,” she said. “I wanted to be one of those people that could do good in the world.”
Thiele knew PLU had an impressive program that prepares students like her for medical school. Over the years, she took advantage of all the opportunities available to her by engaging in whatever she could do to become the most desirable medical school candidate.
“I did a lot in the medical field,” Thiele said. “I did a lot of things to put myself on that path.”
She did well in her physics, chemistry and biology classes. She volunteered in a local emergency room for 100 hours. She studied away in South Africa. She crushed the MCAT.
Next up? Medical school applications.
But sometimes plans change.
For Thiele, the intrigue of medicine has been figuring out the puzzle of disease. Through an analytical chemistry course, she learned she has an analytical mind – perfect for puzzle solving. “I enjoyed working in the lab and creating my own experiments,” she said.
At the same time, she took her final International Honors Program course, which broached the subject of social justice in a way she never considered before.
She asked herself an essential question: How do normal people apply social justice to their everyday lives and jobs?
She had prepared thoroughly to become a medical doctor. Even though her passion wasn’t gone, something was changing.
Thiele participated in a summer undergraduate research project with Mary Ellard-Ivey, associate professor of biology.
They worked to create better plant development in third-world countries. She never thought about working with plants, but a seed had been planted.
“I loved doing what I was doing,” she said. “I loved the research and I loved being there.”
Soon thereafter, Thiele was sitting in front of her computer filling out medical school applications. She couldn’t get past one question: Why do you want to go to medical school?
She couldn’t answer it.
“Then it hit me,” Thiele said. “I don’t want to go to medical school.”
She stood up from her computer and went out to the living area where her roommates were sitting and calmly said: “I’m not going to medical school.”
The revelation was calming. For so long, Thiele was certain she wanted to be a medical doctor. But she had discovered her passion was in the lab, solving puzzles. Now she is applying for different graduate schools in pursuit of a Ph.D. in biology.
“I don’t need to be a medical doctor to do social justice work,” she said.
Thiele was nervous to tell her parents and her professors – she had been on the path to medical school for so long. But their reaction was one in the same.
“My parents said ‘Oh Lauren, that’s not a surprise,’” Thiele said.
“It was a complete relief. Everyone could see it in my face. I think the smile didn’t leave my face for days.”
Her professors had always told her that they wanted Thiele to find her passion, she said. It’s a journey – it always is. She didn’t want to administer the drugs that would help people in the world. She wanted to be the person who figured out how to make them.
“I was confident that I wanted to go to medical school,” she said. “I was interested in medicine and disease and I still am, but I found a different route to that interest.
“I’ve been really happy about my decision to come to PLU for that very reason,” she said.