Beginning in a one-room laboratory in 1887, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is one of the “world’s foremost medical research centers.” According to Steven Beaudry ’03, the NIH, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, is the “Disneyland for nerds.”
The NIH in partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) annually offers one- to two-year funded research fellowships to approximately 40 medical, dental and veterinary students through its HHMI Cloister program. And this, Beaudry thinks, is as close to Disneyland as you can get. “I absolutely love what I’m doing.”
A fourth-year medical student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), in June Beaudry finished his two-year research fellowship at the NIH and will return to WVSOM for his final year of medical school. During his time at the NIH Beaudry studied the molecular mechanisms by which certain red blood cell disorders protect people from severe malaria and death.
Beaudry will graduate as a D.O.—Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine—which is traditional medical training that also emphasizes a wholistic approach to patient care. “People aren’t just physical, but emotional and spiritual too—and everything is affected by disease,” Beaudry says.
Beaudry explains the three motivators for his dedication: “Scientifically I am driven by the desire to answer questions about basic biological processes that no one can yet answer. Globally my desire is to do research to reveal more understanding of malaria and ultimately help save millions of children and adults in poor and malaria-endemic regions of the world. Spiritually I am motivated by the Holy Spirit and the deep satisfaction and joy I feel doing the work the Lord has called me to do. I believe God alone gives us our passions and the interests that drive us to do our daily work.”
Beaudry gives much credit to his Gordon education. “At Gordon I saw how one could integrate science and Christian faith. I came away from Gordon with a much deeper appreciation for and fascination with the biological/cellular/molecular world because I experienced it through the lens of the Christian faith.” Gordon’s focus on global issues also prompted Beaudry to engage in the world, “not withdraw from it simply because we might face criticism as followers of Christ.”
It may have been Dr. Camp singing “Brown-Eyed Fly” during genetics class, or Dr. Ju’s personal stories of faith and science, or just hanging out with Dr. Story in the lab learning about immunology, but many influential science faculty at Gordon contributed to the strong foundation on which Beaudry is building his professional career, he says.
Beaudry’s advice to those studying biology—or any other major—is to seek out a mentor; experience as many things as possible to get an idea of what you want to do; ask questions; and take advantage of the spiritual resources at Gordon. “There is no better time than the undergrad years to do these things,” he says.
Beaudry hopes to pursue a position in academic medicine. “Hopefully I’ll find opportunities to go on medical mission trips and integrate my work with those outreach opportunities,” he says.
In the meantime, while playing guitar for fun in his church’s praise band in Rockville, Maryland, and fly fishing, Beaudry continues to dedicate long hours to researching malaria, hoping for future cures and education for those suffering with this severe illness.