Paul Stewart - Student Success

Paul Stewart - Student Success

Over 50 student clubs and organizations are part of Graceland’s unique attraction for students. Paul Stewart ’17 has his foot in several. Coming from the desert of Moreno Valley, California, Stewart’s first visit to Graceland was in May 2015, and it was snowing. He loved it. 

As one of Powell House’s inaugural members, he served as the COSA (Campus Organization for Social Activities) rep, he played football for two years, is a member of the Council for Student Welfare (CSW), the Science Club, Enactus, and is a student worker for the Sustainability Program.

In his sophomore year, his Science Club friends told him he needed to get busy applying for internships. He researched several and applied to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Amgen Scholars Program. Amgen is a human therapeutics company in the biotechnology industry. The NIH Amgen Scholar Program focused on health disparities among communities, which piqued his interest. In his application, he explained his work with the Sustainability Program at Graceland, where he learned about the government assistance programs for local communities with high poverty levels in Iowa. Without access to proper vegetables and fruit, poor communities become a “food desert,” where the lack of fresh food is a problem that correlates to high obesity rates. He explained a similar problem in Moreno Valley, where only fast food is readily available. Apparently Amgen liked it, and Paul got the full scholarship NIH internship and landed in Washington D.C. for the summer. Paul is the first student from Graceland to receive an internship with the National Institute of Health since 1999.

Twenty students from around the country were there as NIH Amgen scholars. Paul said he was concerned that he might not be up to speed with other students from Harvard, Stanford, Brown and the other big schools, but...

...he realized he was just as prepared and was thankful for Graceland’s solid science program. 

The group of interns met once a week to talk about health disparities, while doing their own research the rest of the time. Paul’s project was focused on “specific targeting” for bladder cancer, a newer treatment that inhibits the cancer cells without harming the normal cells.

“It was my first experience to use what we talk about in Dr. Shawgo’s Graceland classes. My principal investigator throughout the internship was the head of the lab, and he was also a surgeon. I was able to shadow 30-40 hours of surgeries, from biopsies to removing a kidney. I’m really excited about these robotic surgeries. You sit at a console and do the 3D surgery remotely.”

The internship included a trip to Los Angeles, where the scholars studied food disparages and their consequences on the population. Paul was able to share about Graceland’s sustainability advances in the hoop house and the hope for future sustainability plans at Graceland. We have a unique situation — a university in an agricultural county, with among the highest poverty level in the state.*

“I learned so much during my internship, which actually made my career plans more confusing. After shadowing the surgeries, it made me think about being a doctor. I had planned on research at someplace like Mayo Clinic, but now I might want to pursue an MD/PhD program in oncology.”

Graceland has provided a solid and broad base for Paul to launch in new directions. Being able to experience several different interests through Graceland clubs and organizations, Paul has unlimited options.