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From community college to medical school: Public education allowed MD/PhD to reach her goals

Marie King

For Marie King, June 6, 2010, marks the end of an arduous journey that has spanned the breadth of the Massachusetts higher education system, beginning in 1996 at Quinsigamond Community College and culminating at the University of Massachusetts Worcester, where she earned her MD/PhD degree. In the process, she has shown what public education can do for residents with a dream—and passion to fulfill that dream.

After graduating from high school, King didn’t immediately enroll in college. “I spent six years doing all the jobs you do when you don’t have an education,” said the Spencer native, who worked as a waitress and a third-shift machine operator. It was during this period that she decided what she really wanted to do with her life was to go to medical school—so she began by enrolling at Quinsigamond Community College.

“From the moment I first enrolled, I knew I wanted to go to medical school,” said King. “I originally thought I’d be working in forensics, but after volunteering in an emergency room, I surprised myself; it was something I really liked and was good at.”

Finishing at the top of her class, King was awarded a scholarship to continue her education at UMass Amherst. “At the time, that scholarship was a huge deal for me,” said King. “It allowed me to keep going to school to pursue my bachelor’s.” In 2001, she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, and then completed a master’s degree in molecular and cellular biology in 2003.

Her ultimate goal, however, was always to become a physician. She applied to several medical schools across the nation. When she learned that she was accepted to UMass Worcester, she knew it was where she wanted to be. “UMass Worcester has a great reputation for nurturing and supporting students,” said King. “It has a top research program and is committed to fostering a learning environment that allows students to reach their potential.”

After graduating from UMass Worcester, King will begin her residency in emergency medicine at the Medical School’s clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care. After spending the past 15 years in academics, King is looking forward to doing her residency in Worcester. “This is a special place for me,” said King. “A lot of people talk about going back home after medical school and residency. I’m lucky that I’m able to stay here and help the people of my community.”

King acknowledges that without the availability of a quality public higher education system in Massachusetts—from community college to medical school— she might not have been able to achieve the goals she set 15 years ago. “People don’t appreciate the impact that public education has on people, but for me it provided an option for realizing my goals.”