Two Emory students have been recognized for their achievements with prestigious academic scholarships. Lamar Greene (19C) received the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and Ashley Diaz (20C) won the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.
The Truman Scholarship honors college juniors for their commitments to public service, according to its website. Recipients receive $30,000 for graduate study and professional development for a career in public service. Greene, recognized for his work in healthcare innovation, was one of 59 chosen out of 756 applicants across the United States to receive the scholarship.
Greene, a recipient of the Bill and Melinda Gates scholarship, said that his interest in health care first began in high school, but he discovered his passion for human health through an internship at a cardiovascular lab in Richmond, Va.
“I ended up interning through a college access program at a lab for early prevention and detection research for cardiovascular disease,” Greene said. “I became more interested in public health through that program.”
Greene then narrowed his interests through his work with Emory’s Office of Health Promotion (OHP) the summer after his freshman year, where he helped to promote HIV prevention initiatives. Greene wrote a portion of the new “sexpert” curriculum and researched 20 HIV prevention clinics at other colleges across the U.S.
Greene is currently working with OHP on the national college health assessment, which he described as a “health needs assessment for all of Emory.” Greene also plans to write an honors thesis next semester in which he examines racial disparities in maternal health.
“It seemed surreal that I was able to do this fresh out of my first year,” Greene said.
Greene said that his primary focus was on the existing inequities in health care.
“I would say I’m most passionate about health disparities,” Greene said. “Specifically focusing on race and sexual orientation … I think it’s important to guarantee that everyone has access to [health care] on that level.”
Professor of Human Health Jennifer Sarrett said that Greene was extraordinarily passionate about his work.
“Lamar is one of the brightest and most engaged students I’ve come across at Emory,” Sarrett wrote in an April 17 email to the Wheel. “His passion for improving health and quality of life among disenfranchised groups is evident in his many academic and extracurricular activities.”
The Truman Scholarship Foundation also allows students to choose an organization to work with and tries to match the student with the organization of their choosing. Greene chose America’s Essential Hospitals, a trade association that represents hospitals that specialize in serving vulnerable patients.
“They structure [hospitals] to be more vision focused and align more with the social determinants of health, which I think is really phenomenal,” Greene said. “It’s definitely something I could see myself doing long term.”
Diaz was awarded the Goldwater scholarship for her research in organic chemistry, which provides up to $7,500 per year while pursuing their undergraduate degrees. She was one of 211 students chosen out of 1,280 applicants.
The Goldwater Scholarship is bestowed upon college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics or engineering and potentially make significant future contributions in the field, according to its website.
Ashley began her scientific research in high school at a Howard Hughes Medical Institute program in the summer before her senior year, researching spinal cord injuries.
“I was just really interested in neuroscience in general at that point,” Diaz said. “That was my very first research experience.”
Diaz continued her work in neuroscience by studying occipital neuralgia, a type of headache, during her freshman year at Emory.
“We did research on something called occipital neuralgia,” Diaz said. “There aren’t that many therapeutic strategies at the moment, so we researched deep brain stimulation and how that affected whether or not it would help with symptoms.”
Diaz transitioned into the organic chemistry lab after receiving an offer from Associate Professor of Chemistry Bill Wuest.
“I just really liked chemistry a lot,” Diaz said. “I had already done so much research in neuroscience, I wanted to explore.” Diaz currently researchers antibiotic resistance in the Wuest Laboratory.
“Ashley is the most talented sophomore I have ever had work in my lab,” Weust wrote in an April 17 email to the Wheel. “When it comes to chemistry, and organic chemistry in particular, she just gets it.”
Diaz said that she was hesitant to apply for the scholarship at first, but her adviser and Wuest encouraged her to do so.
“It’s so competitive,” Diaz said. “I really didn’t even expect it at all.”
Diaz said that she believes that the amount of publications she’s been involved in probably made her stand out as a candidate for the award.
“Most people at my level don’t have a lot of publications,” Diaz said. “That was probably the tipping point.”
Diaz is currently working on a project involving molecular biology and multiple sclerosis that she began last summer at the University of Miami.
Diaz said that the award made her research feel more significant.
“It just validates that the research I’ve done so far is important,” Diaz said. “Enough that it can be nationally recognized.”
Diaz is unsure of her future plans but is considering pursuing graduate degrees in organic chemistry and emergency medicine.
“If I could find a way to synthesize the stuff that I like, then I’ll definitely do an M.D. and Ph.D.,” Diaz said.
Correction (4/20/18 at 7:50 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that America’s Essential Hospitals was a political action committee (PAC). While America’s Essential Hospitals has a PAC, its larger responsibilities are to represent hospitals in a trade association.