Rebekkah Warren's freshman year at Baylor was not easy. "One of my best friends was paralyzed by a spinal cord injury," she said. "His accident changed my life."
Warren returned to El Paso several times during that school year to offer support to her high school buddy, and her grades suffered as a result. During her four years here, Warren recovered from the tragedy, completed a minor in Russian, and earned recognition both as the Outstanding Senior in Biochemistry and as an "Honors Program Scholar with Distinction."
Warren began medical school at the University of Texas Southwestern Research Center in Dallas in June where she is pursuing joint M.D./Ph.D. degrees. Her long-term plan is to do medical research with a specialty in spinal cord injuries.
Warren was helped along the path from struggling freshman to outstanding senior by professors who recognized her potential. Two of those professors were Dr. David Eldridge, her freshman biology professor, and Dr. Mary Lynn Trawick, her mentor in chemistry and biochemistry.
"Some of the older students warned that Dr. Eldridge was too hard," Warren said. "I took his class anyway and sat in the front row. At the end of the semester, I went to check my grade, and I had received an A. I was so excited I started jumping up and down outside his office. I thought no one was around, but Dr. Eldridge was in a room behind me, shredding papers."
The scientist and student began to talk and, eventually, Warren asked him what inspired him to become a professor. "He told me that when he was in college, a professor took him under his wing and he wanted to do the same. I was touched by that experience. It made me feel that I was an important part of his life and, by extension, the lives of other Baylor professors."
"Dr. Trawick has been the one under whose wing I have resided these past years, but I don't think I would have had the courage to ask her to be my mentor if not for what Dr. Eldridge told me," she added.
Warren worked with Dr. Trawick researching the enzyme transglutaminase for her honors thesis. This enzyme, a common protein, affects blood clotting and is possibly involved in Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases.
In medical school, Warren's focus on spinal cord injuries is a source of inspiration for her injured friend, just as he was the inspiration for her research. She concludes, "If his accident motivates me to find out more about spinal cord injuries like his, he will be encouraged to see good resulting from his suffering."