For graduating senior Ryan Hadden, balance has been the theme of his years at Oregon State University. During his career at here, Hadden has worked as an undergraduate research assistant. He’s walked on to the Oregon State Football team. He’s started a family, and volunteered at a free medical clinic. And he’ll carry balance into his future – as a medical student.
An exercise and sport science major with a pre-medical focus and a minor in health management and policy, he would have had enough on his plate if academics were his only focus. But for Hadden, academics alone wouldn’t cut it.
“It was hard to ensure I invested just as much time in my curricular and extracurricular endeavors,” Hadden says. “It seems like as a pre-medical student, it’s easy to be consumed by your studies. I made sure that I had certain hours of the day that I would devote to exercising, other hours to spending time with family, and I tried to make sure I didn’t focus solely on academia.”
Pursuing a wide variety of interests outside of the classroom led Hadden to working as an undergraduate research assistant with the Linus Pauling Institute and volunteering with Albany InReach Services, which serves community members with limited access to medical care. Both experiences, he says, helped shape his career goals.
Before he began volunteering with the free clinic in Albany in 2008, Hadden shadowed a family practitioner and became interested in family medicine. At the clinic, Hadden helped with patient intake and observed physicians giving back to their community with services for underserved, uninsured families.
“Once I started volunteering at the clinic it definitely reiterated why I wanted to pursue a career in family practice,” Hadden says. “The providers would build that rapport with the patients, and we would have patients coming in and asking for providers by first name. That’s something that I took a liking to, because I would like to get to know everybody that I’m helping.”
In addition to learning about the practical aspect of providing medical services to patients with InReach Services, Hadden seized an opportunity to gain experience in the research realm as well. When a teaching assistant who worked with the LPI expressed her interest in being a physician scientist, Hadden was immediately interested.
“It became clear that physicians need to understand literature and they need to appreciate scientific facts and where they came from, and I wanted that,” Hadden says.
With the LPI, Hadden analyzed tissue samples for scientists’ research projects, including one project that examined the effects of vitamin E on hepatitis as a possible treatment. Hadden isolated compounds in pig livers to find that, in some cases, the vitamin did mitigate damage to the liver — though it was unclear if these results would translate to a human model.
“It’s so rewarding to be a collaborator in expanding scientific knowledge,” Hadden says of his research participation. “I felt like I did only have a small part, but it was a part nonetheless, so I enjoyed my time here and learned how to be meticulous with the literature that I read and lab work that I perform.”
Where it All Started
And even serving on the football team for a brief period, ended by knee injuries that kept him from playing, is an experience Hadden says he’ll take with him to medical school and beyond.
“The most important lesson that I’ve learned at OSU is how to be resilient,” Hadden says. “I’ve learned to take constructive criticism well and failures lightly, which really helped me to maintain a positive outlook on things and made me self-motivated as well.”
Hadden plans to apply to medical school this year, and says he looks forward to finding in medicine experiences that bring all of his interests together.
“That’s why I do research, and that’s why I volunteer and invest time in studying, because those are things that I enjoy: volunteerism, research and science,” Hadden says. “To have that within one profession is a dream come true.”
-Story by Kayla Harr