Science leadership winners desire to serve

Danielle Kemmer and Saad Azam, the most recent recipients of the UALR College of Science Leadership Endowed Scholarship, both said that their desire to serve is the reason they chose to major in science.

The scholarship is funded to assist undergraduate studies in health, mathematics, and science.

Kemmer and Azam received their awards at a reception honoring Charles E. Hathaway, 2013 recipient of the College of Science’s Fribourgh Award at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion on April 4.

Interestingly, Kemmer, a biology major who transferred to UALR during her sophomore year, originally chose communications as her major and expressed no interest in science.

That changed when two months into her freshman year, she was the victim of a brutal assault that resulted in major injuries requiring extensive facial reconstruction.

When her bandages were removed following surgery, it only took one look in the mirror for her to decide she wanted to pursue a degree in science.

“My surgeon gave me back my life and the ability to move on from a traumatic experience,” she said. “I knew I wanted to give back to others like my surgeon had done for me.”

Kemmer refused to take full credit for the award, saying she was very thankful she had “an amazing village” supporting her efforts. She said that while it may take a village to raise a child, it also “takes a village to get someone through college.”

“I have never regretted my decision since declaring biology as my major,” she said. “UALR has given me so many opportunities to pursue my dreams and allowed me to work with some very gifted faculty and students.”

Kemmer is a volunteer at UAMS, as well as Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Arkansas. She shadows doctors to gain experience in the field and will take the MCAT (examination for entry into medical school) this summer.

Azam made the recent decision to double major in both chemistry and biology. Because he will be spending this summer at a NASA facility on a fellowship, he postponed plans to take the MCAT and graduate.

After completing his undergraduate degree, he will apply to several MD/PhD programs.

“With that dual degree, I would not only be able to help my patients at a clinical or a surgical level, but also gain insight into the modern research enterprise,” Azam explained.

Azam said this specialized training not only organizes the experimental and clinical thinking of a physician-scientist, but will also enable him to understand the principles behind the functioning of the human body and mechanisms that result in human diseases.

“I believe understanding the mechanism and groundwork will allow me to help my patients with their problems permanently,” he said.

Delaying his planned graduation by a couple of years also helps Azam get more involved in the community, such as the Harmony Health Clinic, a non-profit organization that is staffed by volunteer professionals like doctors, nurses, medical students, and undergraduates.

“Even though my medical knowledge is limited, working in this clinic has given me the opportunity to gain hands on experience in a high-need environment,” he said.

Azam said the scholarship also enables him to have a leadership role with the 10/20 Project, designed to focus attention on individuals with urgent needs (the hungry, homeless, addicts, or disabled population). The project asks supporters to spend $10 or 20 minutes of service to help meet the needs of these individuals.

Not only that, Azam said he would also like to volunteer at Camp Aldersgate on the weekends, if possible. The non-profit organization provides summer-time experiences for kids with special needs.

“We sometimes take for granted the community we live in,” Azam said. “I believe an individual and society coexist with each other for survival and being part of a volunteer organization can really bridge the gap.”

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