Connor poses for her senior pictures in front of the Patt Neff building at Baylor. (Twin Oaks Photography )
Connor poses for her senior pictures in front of the Patt Neff building at Baylor.

Twin Oaks Photography

Hidden Gem

Alumna Jade Connor receives honorary Fulbright scholarship.

April 28, 2017

After five months of waiting, college senior Jade Connor accepted reality. She was not going to be a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship, an international scholarship where students can study abroad. It just was not possible. She had not heard back within the timeframe she was told she would. But once she arrived home and checked her email, her doubt was replaced with excitement. To her surprise, she received an email congratulating her on receiving the grant.  

Jade was granted a Fulbright study grant March 17, making her the 48th recipient of the grant of the past 10 years at Baylor. After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in biology, Jade plans on attending Maastricht University in The Netherlands for a Masters in Governance and Leadership in Public health. Her grant will be used primarily during a 10-week period of her Master’s degree, doing research in public health, specifically focusing on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. After her Master’s, Jade plans on attending Harvard Medical School.

“I actually was encouraged to apply [for the grant] by a professor that I was working with here at Baylor,” Jade said. “I knew I wanted to go to medical school and I knew I wanted to affect change that was greater than the one-on-one change you can have with a patient. Just the name, the prestige, the opportunities to learn from people of different backgrounds and different cultures definitely help to expand my horizons. My professor saw that and saw that those were my goals for my career, and he really helped me figure out how to go about reaching those goals. So I think the Fulbright is a really good first step.”

Jade was inspired by her grandmother to pursue studying research in Alzheimer’s and dementia. Her grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Jade was in fifth grade.

“Over the course of her disease, we had to put her in a nursing home,” Jade said. “Seeing the gap of the level of care and support families are given as they struggle through the disease definitely influenced me to want to become a doctor and certainly to research what we can do better in society to not only help prevent Alzheimer’s disease [and] help find a cure for it, but also to help support families and help patients as they transition through the diseases.”

Jade initially planned a career in writing before ending her senior year of high school, but because of her AP biology teacher Christie Caldwell, her perception of the medical field shifted from unintriguing to a new, profound interest.

“All throughout highschool, I didn’t want to do anything with medicine or healthcare,” Jade said. “I thought it would be a horrible job dealing with sick people all the time. But I took AP biology with Ms. Caldwell and I really liked that class. I remember sitting there watching a documentary on the future of medicine and I remember thinking how cool it would be to work in a field that is always changing. So this, paired with my grandma, I was like ‘ok, I can see myself becoming a doctor.’”

Caldwell has been teaching at Hebron for nine years and said she feels honored to have taught Jade and to be a major contributor to her career path. Caldwell said her goal is to instill a lasting passion for biology within every one of her students.

“Jade was a very inquisitive student,” Caldwell said. “She always was asking questions and looking beyond the scope of the course. Her determination as well as her motivation really stood out. I feel that she is well deserving of the Fulbright with all of her hard work and dedication in the field of research.”

Caldwell was not the only source of knowledge Jade applied in college. She soon realized high school overall taught and prepared her for bigger challenges to come in her college career.

“Hebron prepared me so well for college,” Jade said. “I’m so thankful that I went to the high school that I did because when you get to college, you’ll find that there are some students whose high schools did not prepare them at all for the rigor of college. Hebron is a great school and I think they push you to do things well and to value excellence. I didn’t struggle in any of my intro classes because I was taught so well. It was very beneficial and rare, which I didn’t realize once I got to college.”

Jade’s family is supportive and encouraging in her pursuit to break medical boundaries through her research. Her sister Jewel has witnessed the dedication and passion her sister has for making a difference in people’s lives.

“I feel like most people who are in pre-med are completely wrapped up in grades and achievements,” Jewel said “But even though she’s super smart, Jade’s number one thing has always been helping people. She has a passion for working with the elderly and as a doctor she wants to improve the lives of Alzheimer’s patients. She visits the same patient at the local nursing home in Waco every weekend. She works hard and makes good grades, but she doesn’t do it to show off or prove anything to anyone. She does it because she wants to become the best physician she can.”

Jade considers herself “Type A” and her constant involvement in school has not changed since high school. She is the president of First, a research organization on campus, an editorial board member for the undergraduate research journal, Stientia and co-president of Medical Mentors, where she leads panels and workshops to name a few. She is also a part of the American Medical Student Association and Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-med honor society. She was also awarded an Excellence in Leadership in Research award and she is a William Hillis, Carr P. Collins, and Doctor and Mrs. Ernest Butler freshman scholar.

“I think the awards and designations don’t mean as much to me as I guess to the fact that these awards are a testament to how I’ve impacted people and how I have impacted my community around me,” Jade said. “Having people look up to me and being able to mentor those who are younger than me and be a positive role model for people, I have been able to impact the community around me in Waco and give back to people who are struggling or are less fortunate than I am. It has definitely been an honor to be able to have those experiences and really know that in this minuscule way I am making a difference in the world.”

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