URI engineering student headed to Brown Med School

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 16, 2008 – Portsmouth resident Matthew Young has known for a long time that he wanted to become a doctor, and he even knew long ago that he wanted to attend the Brown Alpert Medical School. But he chose an unexpected route to get there – studying engineering at the University of Rhode Island.

Thanks to an outstanding academic record and several summer jobs at hospitals and medical centers, he has reached the first step of his goal. Young, a junior studying biomedical and electrical engineering, was recently accepted to Brown Med School through its Early Identification Program, making him just the second URI engineering student to be accepted into the program.

“A professor here once asked me ‘what’s your gift and who needs it?’ So I sat back and thought about why I wanted to be a doctor,” Young said. “I was always strong in math and science and always had an interest in helping people, and the two seem to go hand in hand. And it’s a great avenue for innovation to help people. There’s a lot that can be done in the field of medicine, and it’s a growing field.”

But why start off studying engineering?

“Well, I talked to a lot of family friends, some of whom are doctors, and one said that he wished he had become an engineer because there’s so much innovation that can be done in the industry,” said Young. “Having that background can be a big advantage. I also talked to some engineers, and they said the possibilities are endless.”

“Matt is among our top students with an almost straight-A record,” said Ying Sun, URI professor of biomedical engineering. “His engineering skills in medical instrumentation, medical imaging, and biomedical signal processing will provide him with a unique foundation for pursuing a career as an MD.”

Knowing how difficult it is to be accepted for admission to Brown, Young spent his time at URI wisely, building up an impressive resume. He spent the summer after his freshman year working at Women and Infants Hospital assisting on a research project assessing the effectiveness of the chemotherapy agent Taxol.

“I designed and performed a comprehensive chart and patient review,” he explained. “We wanted to see how well Taxol worked when administered a second or third time to patients who have recurrent cancer. Cancer cells can learn, so chemotherapy becomes less effective because the cells can become resistant to it.”

Last summer, Young worked in the Biomechanics Lab at the Brown University-Lifespan Cooperative Laboratory. “I built motion-controlled toys for hemiplegic cerebral palsy patients – those with paralysis on one side of their body,” he said. “The project was designed to further the kids’ physical therapy through fun, toy-based activities.”

When he wasn’t working on the toys project, Young was organizing a fundraiser for the Patient Advocate Fund at Women and Infants Hospital that raised $60,000 last August. Along with a student at Wheaton College, he planned a gala event at the Atlantic Beach Club in Middletown attended by more than 250 people that included an auction of jewelry, trips and sports memorabilia.

“The Patient Advocate Fund helps women who don’t have a big family support network,” Young explained. “If a woman can’t get to the hospital, the Fund will send a taxi. If they’re losing their electricity, the Fund will help with that. They set up support groups for women who are having similar experiences, support groups for families, support groups for children of women with cancer. The Fund supports a lot of great programs.”

Even though Young has already been accepted to medical school, he still has a year left in his undergraduate education, and he is making the most of it. He is president of the URI Society of Leadership and Success, and he is looking forward to continuing work on the toys project this summer while also participating in a sports medicine internship.

Still, he finds it hard not to look ahead to his medical training.

“I’m really excited about it,” he said with enthusiasm. “I’m taking a challenging course load here at URI, so I don’t know how much harder it can actually get. But medicine is my passion. It’s something that I enjoy, and because there are so many new things happening, it’s always interesting. Instead of studying a circuit board, I’ll be studying the human body. Instead of mathematical equations, you have bones. It’s going to be great.”

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography