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President Henrich announces 2010 Ambassador Scholars

Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 · Volume: XLIII · Issue: 10

The 2010 Student Ambassadors are (left to right) Suzanne Thibodeaux, Emily Whittington, Theresa Davignon, Orville Blake and Lauren Wiggins.
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The 2010 Student Ambassadors are (left to right) Suzanne Thibodeaux, Emily Whittington, Theresa Davignon, Orville Blake and Lauren Wiggins.clear graphic

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A master skydiver, decorated Air Force veteran, student dental leader, former AmeriCorps volunteer and graduate student cancer researcher were named April 20 as The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio Ambassador Scholars.

Each of the exemplary students will represent their school at a number of events throughout the academic year and were awarded a scholarship from the President’s Council, a group of community donors.

The new Ambassador Scholars are Emily Wittington from the Dental School, Orville Blake from the School of Health Professions, Theresa Davignon from the School of Nursing, Lauren Wiggins from the School of Medicine and Suzanne Thibodeaux from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

“This recognition is a well-deserved honor,” said President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP., speaking to the students. “It is apparent that your efforts have been recognized by the deans who have chosen you for this significant award. You have been selected because you are excellent student leaders, and we are confident that you will be outstanding representatives of your school and the Health Science Center.”

More information about each Ambassador Scholar is provided below:

Dental School, Emily Whittington
Whittington is a third-year dental student from Dallas. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science from Texas A&M and later attended Baylor College of Dentistry’s Caruth School of Dental Hygiene. After graduation, she worked for three years in private practice as a dental hygienist before entering dental school.

She serves as president of the Dental Student Association and has served as class president for the past two years. Whittington is also a member of the American Student Dental Association, ZIPS dental fraternity and the American Association of Women Dentists.

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Suzanne Thibodeaux
Thibodeaux is an M.D./Ph.D. student in the third year of her doctoral studies in the cellular and structural biology program, focusing on the cancer biology track. She received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Tulane University and transferred to the Health Science Center from Tulane School of Medicine in 2007 at the beginning of the Ph.D. phase of her dual degree.

Her research focuses on the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies to treat ovarian cancer and the understanding of the mechanisms by which these therapies work. She received the Translational Science Training Award from the CTSA this past fall, and she authored a book chapter, co-authored 10 abstracts and has a paper which was recently published in the Journal of Immunological Methods.

She has been recognized with a Southern Society for Clinical Investigation Student Research Award and student travel awards to the World Immune Regulation and American Society for Clinical Investigation meetings. She also represents the Health Science Center as an institutional representative to the American Physician Scientist Association.

School of Health Professions, Orville Blake
Blake is first-year master’s of occupational therapy student who decided to enter the field after 24 years of active duty service with the Air Force. This included tours with Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Germany, and tours in Washington, D.C., after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and service in Kosovo.

In Afghanistan, his leadership led to the launch of 22 aeromedical evacuation missions, resulting in the life-saving battlefield extraction of 55 coalition patients. He also served at every command level within the Air Force’s Aeromedical Evacuation System.

Blake was named Number One Master Sergeant in the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command Standards and Evaluation for leading medical evacuation teams during Hurricane Rita, which safely loaded and transported 358 elderly and 78 ambulatory patients on a C-5 aircraft for the first time in Air Force history.

In addition to his stellar military service, Blake is described as a tireless volunteer, coaching youth soccer and serving as an active member of his church.

School of Nursing, Theresa Davignon
Davignon is a second-semester undergraduate nursing student and serves class president. She is also a member of the Student Body Organization Council, the National Scholars’ Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the student mentoring program Juntos Podemos. She serves a peer advisor in her school and is a student liaison between University Hospital and the School of Nursing.

This ambassador also is a tandem master of skydiving who says that the skills she learned with that activity — decision-making under pressure, attention to detail and safety — are serving her well and preparing her for a career in nursing.

School of Medicine, Lauren Wiggins
Wiggins is a second-year medical student and Harvard graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She deferred her enrollment to Harvard to serve a year of community service with the AmeriCorps City-Year program. She shared that her eyes were opened to disparities in health and health education, and discovered a passion for teaching and serving underprivileged communities.

In college, she was active in the Association of Black Harvard Women's high school mentorship program, the Kuumba Singers, the Baroque Chamber Orchestra, campus tutors and Kaplan MCAT tutors, and she conducted breast cancer research at the medical school. After graduation, she taught math, science, orchestra and math competition at an elementary school in an underserved area of south Dallas, where she realized her dream of becoming a doctor.

At the Health Science Center, Wiggins serves as president of the Student National Medical Association. In addition to being active in surgery and ophthalmology groups, Wiggins plays in a string quartet and serves as a tutor and mentor-teacher. She is also a recipient of the Frank Bryant, Jr. Award from the San Antonio branch of the National Medical Association.

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