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Changing Health Care From Within

Changing Health Care From WithinRecent Tufts graduate Hilary Glazer hopes to take a different approach to health care as she begins study at Washington University School of Medicine. Her commitment to change, along with her passion for language and science, helped her earn one of the most prestigious graduate scholarships in the country.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.25.06] Hilary Glazer was on the Metro North train into New York City in early July when she received a phone call from a representative of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, informing her that she had won the foundation's prestigious graduate scholarship. Glazer (A'06), a Tufts University graduate with plans to attend Washington University Medical School, didn't think twice about whom to tell first. "I told my mom first, because we have such a great relationship," says Glazer.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship Program offers grants of up to $50,000 annually -- covering tuition, room, board, fees and books -- for up to six years of graduate study and research. They are among the most generous and sought-after academic awards in the country and require an intimidating application that includes seven essays.

Glazer spent most of her spring break completing the application and was ecstatic to learn that her commitment had paid off. "I felt like I had worked really hard," says Glazer, "and I'm glad that they recognized it."

A Doctor's Inspiration

For most of her adolescence, Glazer wanted to be a veterinarian. "I vividly remember dissecting my first sheep's heart in sixth grade," she recalls. In fact, it wasn't until she took Advanced Placement biology during her sophomore year of high school that Glazer fell in love with human biology. "I did many different dissections in 10th grade biology that heavily influenced my interest in treating the human body and possibly going into surgery," she recalls.

Glazer continued her education at Tufts, where she double majored in biology and Spanish. She cites a number of experiences that solidified her desire to go into the medical field, including volunteering in clinics for the medically underserved, working in emergency rooms and tutoring biology. Yet the most influential of all was her father's fight with lung cancer.

"He received the diagnosis...way too late," recalls Glazer. "Although he survived for a year and a half, he finally succumbed to the disease when I returned home for winter break freshman year."

That time was the toughest of Glazer's life. "It was hard watching him suffer and wither away from a disease that was at that point incurable," she says. "And it was even harder helping my mom deal with the loss after he was gone."

Throughout her father's battle with cancer, Glazer saw firsthand the problems with the public health system. "I felt that all three of us-not just my dad-weren't treated the way we should have been by the hospital and doctors, and I became frustrated with the entire health-care system," she says.

The experience motivated Glazer to try to change the system from within. "It inspired me to...treat my patients and their families with the utmost compassion, respect and understanding, always putting their interests above myself, the hospital, and other administrators," she says.

Glazer believes that everyone is entitled to quality health care, no matter where they come from, or what language they speak. "This is one of the main reasons I continually try to expose myself to other cultures, backgrounds and languages," she says. Glazer worked hard to hone her language skills in order to communicate with Hispanic patients, and she plans on volunteering at La Clinica, a Washington University medical clinic for Latinos in St. Louis. "I think it's really easy to lose a perspective that medicine is here to serve everyone, not just those that can afford it," she says.

A Personal Approach

Glazer believes that the U.S. health care system can be vastly improved through a more personal approach to patient-doctor interactions. "My goal in medicine is to focus on patients' personal wants, needs and interests and to try and make the levels of care we already have available more effective."

Glazer wants to focus "on educating people about lifestyle changes, and on how health consciousness fits into their everyday lives." On the research side, Glazer is most concerned with disease prevention. She is particularly interested in cell signaling, which she describes as the "critical intervention point for all kinds of treatment and prevention methods, as most diseases are caused or precipitated by these cell signaling pathways going wrong."

At Washington University, Glazer hopes to "successfully link what I feel are my moral convictions for becoming a doctor with these more academic ones."

Although she plans on studying surgery, she says her ultimate goal "is to have a significant impact on my patients' lives, and not just their disease or medical state."

She notes, "I can't see myself doing anything else."

Profile written by James Gerber, Class of 2008
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