Modern Medicine in Venerable Spaces

Imagine taking up residence in the historic University of Cambridge, founded in 1209, now the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's fourth-oldest surviving university. At various times in history, the likes of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking, and Manhattan Project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer all traipsed Cambridge’s hallowed halls. Imagine putting pen to paper in a space where dramatist Christopher Marlowe, novelist Samuel Butler, and modernist writers E.M. Forster, Vladimir Nabokov, and of course, A.A. Milne all spent time learning their craft. For Keren Egu ’21, this is not something to imagine, it is something to remember: Keren spent four weeks last summer studying medical science and psychology at—by nearly every measure—one of the top universities in the world.

For more than 30 years, both Cambridge and Oxford Universities have welcomed high school students through the Oxbridge Academic Programs. Oxbridge courses are taught by University lecturers and researchers, and other academics, including Rhodes Scholars. When Oxbridge representatives visited Taft, Keren thought the program might be a good fit.

“I was very interested in the course offerings, and in the opportunity to learn from University professors,” says Keren, who is considering a career as a surgeon. “I was looking to be challenged academically while visiting a part of the world I had never been to.”

Oxbridge applicants select two areas of concentrated study, a major and a minor. Major courses meet six mornings during each of the four weeks, while minor studies take place three afternoons each week. Keren was accepted into the highly competitive medical science program, which she paired with a psychology minor. 

“Our work in medical science was very hands-on. We began learning some straightforward procedures, like taking vital signs and drawing blood,” Keren says. “But by the end, we were dissecting and suturing hearts. I’ve always been interested in science and medicine, but worried I would see blood and organs and just not be able to handle it. Once the professor brought out the heart for the dissection and I was touching it and suturing it I thought, ‘Ok, I can do this!’ The whole program really affirmed for me for the first time that this what I want to—and can—do.”

The program combined hands-on learning with lectures by field specialists. They covered everything from human anatomy and physiology to the pathology and significance of certain diseases. They also spent time learning about the broad range of career options that make up the medical science field.  

“We started with bones, fractures, and joints, then moved on to stomach and heart, which I found really interesting. We learned projections of the heart, parts of the aorta, and functions of the various organs,” says Keren.

The coursework was rigorous, Keren says, but being taught by university professors was inspiring. She learned more effective note-taking strategies and skills that allow her to better summarize material and extract the most salient details for deeper learning. 

“I definitely would not have had this experience if it wasn’t for Taft and the Page Grant,” says Keren. “To be taught by university professors in a prestigious, historic, and beautiful place was truly amazing.”

Keren’s travel was funded in part by a Meg Page ’74 fellowship. To honor her commitment to compassionate health care, Meg Page ’74 Fellowships are awarded annually to students who wish to explore an experience or course of study devoted to the provision of better health care in areas such as public health, family planning, medical research, mental health, and non-Western practices of healing.