News

Students Awarded Summer Fellowships at Cancer Institute

by Bill Giduz
Dominic Boccaccio
Dominic Boccaccio '14

Davidson's Medical Humanities Department has announced recipients of its second cohort of CORE (Clinical Oncology Research Experience) Fellows at Levine Cancer Institute, Carolinas Healthcare System, in Charlotte. The three students selected for this award will spend 10 weeks of the coming summer in the hospital conducting mentored research and participating in educational experiences such as grand rounds and team meetings.

The new fellows were selected based on their clinical and research experiences so far, relevant coursework, long-term goals and intention to continue research during their senior year. The internship carries a stipend of $4,400, plus support to attend conferences.

Dominic Boccaccio '14, who held one of the initial fellowships last summer, said the experience offers unparalleled insight into the world of medicine. A Hispanic Studies major from Fuquay Varina, N.C., who plans to attend medical school, he worked at Levine with Tucker Burks, M.D. '82, a specialist in gynecologic and obstetric pathology.

Boccaccio appreciated the CORE fellowship's blending of clinical and research experiences. He spent considerable time looking at slides of pancreatic cancer, and also reviewed scientific studies of the disease to help Reza Nazemzadeh, M.D., in writing a paper about a particular treatment method. He's also now working with a bone marrow transplant specialist on a paper about the efficacy of a certain method of treatment.

His days sometimes began with a 7 a.m. meeting of the "tumor board," where the full range of caregivers would discuss complicated cases. He visited patients with doctors, and attended surgeries. "It was amazing to work beside the doctors," Boccaccio said. "It was encouraging to see the high level of patient care. I was impressed at the balanced approach between aggressive care and attention to patients' wishes when the best treatment is palliative."

Boccaccio is continuing his involvement with the CORE fellowship this school year by writing manuscripts. He's also rounding out his view of cancer treatment as a weekly volunteer at Serenity House in Mooresville, a hospice facility. "It's important to see the non-curative aspect of cancer as well," he said.

The other CORE student from last year's inaugural class of fellows was Caroline Merwarth '13. Justin Kirkwood '14, another member of last summer's research team at Levine Cancer Institute, was supported through the Medical Humanities program and a generous gift from the Gyves family.

The 2014 CORE Fellows are:

  • Emma Domingoes '15, a biology major and chemistry minor from St. Augustine, Fla., who holds a Chambers Scholarship. She has served as a science tutor on campus, and completed a 10-week research internship at the University of Pennsylvania molecular biology program. She was a mentor in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute "Strategies for Success" program and has been inducted into both the Beta Beta Beta biology honor society and Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-medicine honor society.
  • Olivia E. Fukui '15 is an anthropology major with a minor in chemistry. She served as a research assistant in the orthopedic department of West Penn Allegheny Hospital, which led to her co-authorship of two papers. She is president of the club-level lacrosse team, and a volunteer science teacher at a local middle school.
  • Lauren Lu '16 is a premedical student from Brentwood, Tenn. who has conducted a research internship at the Vanderbilt University department of cancer biology. She has been a participant in Davidson's "Strategies for Success" program, and was a semifinalist in a Siemens competition for students interested in STEM studies.