“Connor is an upbeat and enthusiastic learner, and has the type of energy, thirst for knowledge and an ability to understand complex systems that we should be recruiting into medicine.” -David Tom Cooke, Department of Surgery
As a high school student in Brentwood, Tenn., Connor Grant thought his career future lay in business and marketing. That changed his junior year thanks to a family friend, an emergency room physician who invited Grant to shadow her during a shift.
“She said, ‘You know, I think you’d love what I do,’” recalled Grant, today a senior in neurobiology, physiology and behavior.
“Within the first 15 minutes, they rolled in a gunshot patient,” he said. “The doctor I was shadowing was amazing. She just took complete control of the room and had everyone doing a specific task to save this patient.”
The emergency room’s transformation amazed Grant. One moment, personnel worked silently on their computers, and the next, they were standing, ready to lend a hand. No one was frazzled; they were calm.
These leadership qualities struck Grant, kindling a drive to pursue the medical profession.
As a soon-to-be graduate, Grant departs UC Davis for medical school in the fall. But he’ll leave campus with one of the university’s highest honors, the Veloyce Glenn Winslow Jr. Award, which recognizes a graduating male student for outstanding leadership and scholarship. The award was established in 1966 to memorialize the achievements of Veloyce Glenn Winslow, Jr., who died tragically while serving as vice president of the UC Davis student body.
“It really felt like an all-encompassing award of my experience here,” said Grant. “My time at Davis is coming to a close, and I hope that I’ve left some sort of legacy.”
Committed to service
At UC Davis, Grant sought opportunities to help develop his research and leadership skills. By the end of his junior year, he’d worked on the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Advisory Board (CUAB), held multiple research associate positions at the UC Davis Medical Center and served as the president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, leading a community of 21 different fraternal organizations and 800 members across campus.
Grant’s time working with CUAB inspired a desire to be involved in policymaking and administration.
“Specifically, I was working on how we can better connect students, faculty and administrators,” he said of his work with CUAB. “I think a lot of times, especially from the student perspective, we feel that our voice isn’t heard, but why is that? And so we were trying to diagnose why things are lost in communication.”
As president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, Grant helped implement educational programming for campus fraternity members, utilizing assistance from the Center for Advocacy Resources and Education. Training module topics included sexual violence prevention, hazing prevention, alcohol risk reduction and social justice essentials.
“It’s supposed to be a holistic education that they may not be receiving or have not received elsewhere,” Grant said. “It’s mandatory that each chapter have 90 percent attendance for the classes.”
“What I like to see in any kind of organization is peer accountability,” he added.
Grant is also co-president of the Phi Sigma Biological Sciences Honor Society. He was instrumental in organizing this year’s Phi Sigma Student Research Showcase, which publicized research conducted by the organization’s members. Five undergraduate students were invited to present their research in front of family, friends and even the College of Biological Sciences deans.
“The deans were great,” said Grant. “They were offering feedback and asking questions throughout the entire event and for every presentation. It was a more relaxed atmosphere and I hope everyone in attendance had fun.”
Preparing for medical school
“If we can do this research that illuminates what hospital resources are being utilized and how this patient population is changing then we can better target how we can help them.” -Connor Grant
While establishing a place in the Greek and campus community, Grant also got involved in clinical research. Through the UC Davis Emergency Medicine Research Associate Program, he met and started working with researchers at UC Davis Health.
Grant’s research assistance on cocaine and methamphetamine abuse earned him authorship on two studies, one published in the Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence and the other in the Journal of Addiction. The studies cataloged differences in hospital resources for methamphetamine patients between a 20-year period and the differences between the symptoms methamphetamine and cocaine users present in the emergency department of the UC Davis Medical Center.
“This patient population is essentially forgotten,” said Grant. “If we can do this research that illuminates what hospital resources are being utilized and how this patient population is changing then we can better target how we can help them.”
A thirst for knowledge
For Grant, the attraction to clinical research stems from its close relationship to data-based decision-making and patient care application. While working with David Tom Cooke, a surgeon and associate professor in the Department of Surgery, Grant focused on improving patient engagement through the implementation of a mobile app.
“Connor is an upbeat and enthusiastic learner, and has the type of energy, thirst for knowledge and an ability to understand complex systems that we should be recruiting into medicine,” said Cooke. “His academic productivity demonstrates a natural proclivity for hypothesis-based research and unique thoughtful perspective that will lead him to be a leader in US healthcare.”
Ever eager and prepared, Grant took the Medical College Admission Test during his sophomore year. He’s now deciding which medical program he wants to attend this fall, likely UC Irvine.
“I’d love to get an M.D./M.B.A.,” he said, noting he’d like to explore the policymaking side of medicine. “I think bringing more physicians to the table to be involved in the decision-making process is important.”
“In my future, I want to be at that table,” he added.