Back to school for future doctor

Quinshell Smith graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in December with two degrees – a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a Bachelor of Science in biology, but she’s not ready to leave campus yet. On Jan. 22, she will return as a graduate student to begin work on a Master of Science in Applied Science.

The work she is doing is all part of her plan to one day be a neurologist.

Smith, 23, knew she wanted to attend college after she graduated from Hall High School in 2013, but as the first in her family to go to college, she didn’t have help sorting through the college process.

“At the time, I wanted to get out of Little Rock, and I went with the school that sent me the first acceptance letter,” she said. “I didn’t do my research.”

The school wasn’t a good fit, and Smith transferred to UA Little Rock to continue her biology studies.

“I chose biology because I thought it would help me understand the human body,” she said. “I’ve always had a love of science, and I want to be a doctor.”

Then she took a class with Dr. Rachel Tennial, associate professor of psychology, and decided she wanted to double major in both biology and psychology.

“I just fell in love with the psychology department,” she said. “All of the professors had an open-door policy, and a lot of my research came out of the psychology department.”

Smith’s passion to be a doctor stems from the death of her father at young age.

“Not having my father around affected me as a girl growing up,” she said. “My father’s death, along with being raised in a single parent household, impacted my decision to pursue psychology because a lot of the things I learned in my psychology, I realized I have encountered. It helped me understand the situation and the way the people around me think. It also helped me have the capacity to forgive his killer.”

Smith underwent much counseling after her father’s death, and on campus, she has worked to increase awareness of mental health. As president of UA Little Rock’s Psychology Club, she helped start Mental Health Awareness Week that brought together different campus organizations and student groups for a week of mental health related activities in October. She also organized a donation drive through the Psychology Club to benefit Methodist Behavioral Health.

Smith also served on Student Government Association as a senator for the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences.

One of her most rewarding experiences at UA Little Rock has been the extensive undergraduate research she’s participated in alongside UA Little Rock faculty.

In one research project, she interviewed stage 3 and 4 cancer patients about their end-of-life preparations as part of a research study at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

“I had to ask the tough questions,” Smith recalled. “A lot of patients really touched me. It gave me a different perspective. I feel like this research truly prepared me for life as a doctor when I do make it to that point. Doctors have to talk about the tough stuff that people don’t want to talk about.”

She also worked with psychology professor David Mastin on a sleep study, measuring how technology affects students’ sleep.

“Dr. Mastin taught me how to really conduct research,” she said. “It is what I will need for my graduate research.”

When the spring semester starts, Smith will work as a graduate assistant in the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence on campus. The assistantship will cover her graduate school tuition.

Down the road, Smith plans to attend medical school, but for now she’s content with the work she’s doing to prepare.

“I know I will get there,” she said. “I’m taking my time because I realized that not everything is a rush. I’m taking my time to learn every subject.”

Photo by Benjamin Krain

 

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