Alumni Spotlight

Megan Maguire Marshall ’12
Medical Student
University of New Mexico in Albuquerque

Major: Whittier Scholars Program, Medical Anthropology

Describe your Whittier Scholars major. My major was entitled "Medical Anthropology.” I explored the complex determinants of human health and disease and varied approaches to healing. I explored health determinants that transcend biology and genetics, such as social, cultural, and economic factors. My coursework in both the physical and social sciences gave me the foundation to complete a senior project comparing health care resources for two very different groups of American Indians, i.e. urban and rural populations. Focusing on the intersection of Western medicine and traditional American Indian healing or alternative medicine, I explored questions about resources for Western Biomedical care and traditional healing in rural/urban areas; resources and funding allocation in the two regions; and implications these factors have on American Indian health outcomes.

What first attracted you to Whittier College? Since I wanted to continue swimming in college, I researched and visited NCAA Division III schools with strong swim programs in Southern California. Whittier was one of those schools. I was invited to attend the Whittier High School Honors Weekend and was excited to learn about WSP’s strong commitment to collaborative learning and self-designed majors. The full tuition scholarship I received that weekend ultimately allowed me to attend Whittier College. As a New Mexican, I was also attracted to the southern California lifestyle and weather!

Why was the Whittier Scholars Program the right track for you? Going into my freshman year, I knew I wanted to become a physician. Increasingly, medical schools are seeking students with a well-rounded or non-traditional major outside of the physical and biological sciences. I thought the WSP would give me the opportunity to design my own educational plan for completing pre-medical course requirements while exploring my other interests in the humanities, social sciences, and self-designed research projects.

Describe your experience at Whittier College. Who was your favorite professor? Whittier College truly was the best place for me to grow academically, athletically, socially, and personally. I developed lasting friendships with classmates and teammates through taking four years of rigorous pre-med classes and competing on the swim team. I was able to pursue research projects with faculty in both the biological and social sciences and participated in many clubs, including Student for Community Medicine and the Biology Club. My favorite professor was Dr. Julie Collins-Dogrul in Sociology. Her course, “Sociology of Health and Medicine” was an invaluable component of my Whittier Scholars Program that served as the impetus for developing my senior project. Additionally, Dr. Collins-Dogrul took me on as a research assistant for her U.S.-Mexico border health organizations research, she served as the mentor for my independently designed Fletcher-Jones fellowship research project, she was my Whittier Scholars Program sponsor, and helped me attend the Western Social Sciences Conference as a student presenter. She helped me develop skills and approaches to both learning and life that have served me well in the first semester of medical school.

Describe your study abroad experience. I had a month-long summer study abroad experience in Copenhagen, Denmark, during the summer after my junior year. I got to spend time sightseeing in both Denmark and Sweden as I took the course “Public Health in Northern Europe." Through the class, we examined models of healthcare systems and methods being used to pool funds, allocate resources, determine coverage, provide services, and identify health care priorities. This fostered comparison of access and quality of care in Scandinavia and the U.S., as well as discussion of the pros and cons of universalistic, social insurance, and free market health systems. The range of solutions we examined showed me the importance of systemic approaches to equal, affordable care for healthy communities, which helped shape my WSP senior project.

What are you currently up to? I am a first year medical student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM. I received the National Health Service Corps scholarship, which, in exchange for funding my four years of medical school, will place me in a health professional shortage area to work with and serve disadvantaged communities.

How has your Whittier Scholars major benefited you outside of college? This program and the major I completed at Whittier College helped me articulate my interests and passions during my medical school interviews and shaped the way I approach learning. I built skills and responsibility for independent and collaborative learning, both essential in medical school. WSP gave me a strong foundation for my current medical school education.

What advice would you give to any students interested in becoming a Whittier Scholar? Learn more about the program by talking with current students. Explore your interests to determine if the WSP will be a good fit for you. You don’t need to know exactly what your major will be, but it is important to have a general idea of what you hope to accomplish as a Whittier Scholar. It’s also important to consider if you want the flexibility as well as responsibility to design your own educational plan.

Similarly, what advice would you give to future Whittier Scholars majors when they graduate? Don’t forget the skills learned and connections made through the WSP! These are a strong foundation to build careers, future educational pursuits, and a life-long approach to learning with and from others. I gained a lot from meeting program alumni at the functions that WSP hosted for us, so think about how you can give back to the program.

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… You can take a Poet out of Whittier College, but you can’t take the memories of Whittier out of the Poet!

-Are you a graduate of the Whittier Scholars Program and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at