Profile: Killing two birds with one stone

Derick Holt, a U medical student, is doing something that most others in his field don’t do-completing a medical doctorate and a philosophy doctoral degree at the same time.

There are only four people in the program out of 104 medical students in his graduating class attempting to do what Holt is, and added that there are more in the graduating class below him.

The process will take Holt a total of about seven years. A student not in the program but wanting to get a doctorate would spend an additional five to six years in school after four years in medical school.

For Holt, it’s not about the length of time or the amount of work, but about the dedication to learning. In addition, Holt receives a full-tuition scholarship, health insurance for his family and a stipend granted upon acceptance to the program. “If I could, I would have gotten a bachelor’s degree in everything,” Holt said about being in school for nearly 10 years. But he said he had to finally pick something, and science motivated him because of the advances it has in medicine.

“I love science because things are always changing, and I love medicine,” he said.

For Holt, another seven years did not seem to be a big deal after already completing five. He never looked at school as being a bottomless pit because he said he has always enjoyed learning.

“When it started getting toward the end of my undergraduate work, I was just excited to start school, graduate school. It was just a new phase in my education.”

He said, “It wasn’t like I never wanted to go to school again, but I just [couldn’t] wait to go to a different sort of school.”

Though busy, Holt is not Superman. The dark-haired, 26-year-old would like to do both research and clinical work, but doesn’t have the time.

“There are some people who are really good at [balancing the two],” he said.

Despite having a new baby at home and a wife, Holt spends much of his time in a lab at the Huntsman Cancer Institute working to finish his thesis. His wife might miss him, but understands the situation.

“My wife has always been supportive. We were high-school sweethearts, so we’ve known each other a long time,” Holt said.

Every graduate student has to complete a thesis. He chose to work with proteins because of the lab mentor leading the work.

Brad Karen is a “good scientist and an excellent mentor. He knows how to ask scientific questions, make hypotheses and design experiments,” Holt said.

However, it was more than a good scientist that attracted Holt. He said Karen is someone who knows what he is doing and is also “someone who knows how to teach.”

While working at the lab, Holt said it is important for him to learn everything he can about research work.

In order to gain experience, Holt said he averages between 10 and 12 hours a day in the lab.

“It is more like 10 hours than 12, however, I would like to do 12 if I could,” he said. He said it is very important for graduate students to focus on their work in order to be successful.

“To be successful in graduate school is to be successful in the lab,” Holt said.

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