Dr. Melissa Rasar Young: Vanatta, Hesser, Schmalstieg Excellence in Tutoring Award

By Amanda Siegfried

From an early age, Dr. Melissa Rasar Young knew she wanted to be a doctor. Along the way to that goal, however, she would acquire additional skills and develop new interests that now have her embarking on a career as a physician-scientist-teacher.

“In college, even in elementary school, I wanted to be a doctor, but in my junior year in college I fell in love with research,” Dr. Young said. “It was a kind of crisis of identity.”

Dr. Melissa Rasar Young

After graduating with a biology degree from Willamette University, in her hometown of Salem, Ore., Dr. Young took some time off to consider whether she would go to medical school or graduate school. She also contemplated becoming a science teacher.

Her experiences working at Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, Ore., convinced her that she wanted to be involved in science while also seeing patients. An undergraduate mentor from Texas recommended that Dr. Young check out
UT Southwestern’s acclaimed Medical Scientist Training Program, in which students earn both a medical degree and a Ph.D.

“UT Southwestern’s program was the best option out there,” Dr. Young said.

Even as a full-time medical and doctoral student, she still retained her teaching instincts.

“After my first year of grad school, I explored teaching options here,” Dr. Young said. She began tutoring for the Office of Medical Education in 2004 and continued to work for the office through her graduate school studies, as well as during her return to medical school after completing her Ph.D. requirements.

“Pharmacology was a challenging course, and I developed strategies for getting through it,” she said. “Teaching pharmacology allowed me to pass on to others some of my own strategies.”

In recognition of her outstanding tutoring services, Dr. Young received the 2010 Vanatta, Hesser, Schmalstieg Excellence in Tutoring Award. The award, for which Dr. Young will receive a certificate, a commemorative plaque and $500, honors the graduating senior who made the most significant contribution in the service of fellow medical students in need of academic assistance.

“Her willingness to teach and tutor pharmacology in all our support programs made her a year-round resource to very grateful students,” said Carol Wortham, manager of student academic assistance services in the Office of Medical Education. “I suspect that Melissa was born to teach.”

Dr. Young, who also was elected to the Dallas chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha — the national medical honor society, will begin a residency in internal medicine/radiation oncology at Yale School of Medicine in June.

“Radiation oncology provides an opportunity to be in an academically focused field while still being involved with patients,” she said. “I would like to continue teaching, so landing at an academic medical center would be a good fit.”

She will be joined by her son, Jackson, and her husband, Dr. Bryan Young, a fellow 2010 UT Southwestern graduate who will begin his residency in internal medicine/cardiology at Yale.