Prescription for Life: Southeast Pre-Med Grad Aims to be Compassionate Caregiver

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Brian Rabe

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 14, 2015 – Southeast Missouri State University graduating senior Brian Rabe of Auburn, Illinois, hopes to make a difference in the lives of others.

“My goal is to one day work in an academic medicine setting where I can treat patients and conduct research that contributes to the ever-growing body of medical knowledge, and educate future physicians to become competent, compassionate and empathetic caregivers,” he said.  

 After graduating with honors from Southeast May 16 with a perfect 4.0 grade point average and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, biochemistry option, Rabe will take his pursuits to the next level at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Rabe was admitted to the Washington University School of Medicine after performing well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Dr. James Champine, chair of Southeast’s Department of Biology and chief pre-medical advisor, said no Southeast student in the last two decades has scored higher on the MCAT than Rabe. He chose Washington University after weighing other offers from medical schools at St. Louis University, University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University and the University of Missouri.

“It was definitely exciting,” Rabe said.

He says he first began exploring the possibility of becoming a medical doctor after watching his grandfather suffer from the problems associated with Diabetes.

“As a family member, it was difficult to watch how the disease significantly reduced his quality of life,” he said. “This experience left me wanting to be in a position one day where I can assist other people in maintaining an optimum quality of life.”

His passion for a career in healthcare was further sparked in high school as he became interested in clinical psychology. That changed when he enrolled in an Anatomy and Physiology course to fill a space in his schedule. He developed a passion for it and he began to explore the possibility of a career in medicine, he said.

“For the first time in my life, I was excited to study. I wanted the teacher to move faster in class, to cover more information, and to write challenging exams,” he said. “My immediate enchantment with the subject led me to explore the possibility of pursuing a career in medicine.”

After that, he worked in the Emergency Department at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Illinois, to explore the clinical side of medicine.

“I found that I loved working with patients and realized that clinical medicine is absolutely the right field for me,” he said. “I think I was drawn specifically to being a physician, as opposed to another type of healthcare provider, because of the diverse nature of the profession, broad scope of practice and boundless potential for research activity.”

Research appeals to him, he said, although he acknowledges, “I love the humanistic side of medicine. I am really fascinated by how the human body functions and fails to function properly in many cases.”

The dynamic nature of medicine provides wide ranging opportunities for continuous intellectual growth, Rabe said.

He launched his academic career at Southeast after receiving a scholarship and hearing “good things” about Southeast’s pre-med program. He started as a biomedical science major, but his interests shifted to chemistry, while his pursuit toward medical school never wavered.

Since then, his love for chemistry has taken him around the globe. Last summer, he conducted research on green reagents and techniques, and recyclable catalysis in the oxidation of alcohols in collaboration with Dr. Brindaban Ranu in India.

During that National Science Foundation-funded experience, Rabe traveled with Dr. Mohammed Ali, Southeast professor of chemistry, to India along with a small group of other Southeast students to conduct research in emerging fields of chemistry at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in Kolkata, India. The experience was part of the U.S.-India Program for Research in Green Chemistry. They worked alongside Indian students and faculty at an internationally renowned, well-equipped research institute. There, Rabe and the other students were involved in significant research in organic chemistry, researching methods for efficiently limiting environmental pollution.  The trip culminated with a presentation of the students’ results to a national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

“It was a great experience that not only allowed me to gain research experience, but also allowed me to learn about a new culture in an immersive manner,” Rabe said. “This phenomenal experience allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for research methodology and to develop my investigative skills, both of which would serve me well in a career as a physician.”

Along with the research experience in India, Rabe has taken advantage of many opportunities at Southeast to expand his knowledge and skills in preparation for medical school.

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Brian Rabe conducted research with Dr. Dustin Siegel on the evolution of the kidney in salamanders.

He conducted research as a freshman in the herpetology research lab of Dr. Dustin Siegel, Southeast assistant professor of biology. There, he gained skills in tissue sample preparation and analysis. For the past three and a half years, Rabe has worked with Siegel on the evolution of the kidney in salamanders. He also has accompanied Siegel on monthly trips into the canyons of southern Illinois to collect salamanders.

Rabe co-authored research presented by Siegel at the World Congress of Herpetology in Vancouver in 2012, at the Missouri Herpetological Association yearly conference in 2013 and the Joint Meeting of Ichthyology and Herpetology in Chattanooga in 2014. Last fall, Rabe and Siegel submitted two papers to peer-reviewed journals – Copeia and Herpetologica — that were accepted for publication.

“Southeast has been a great environment in terms of cultivating individuality,” he said. “At a larger university, I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities to get to know my professors. Without these relationships, I wouldn’t have received the advice and instruction that has been critical in getting me to this point.

“As a chemistry major with a biochemistry emphasis, I found the chemistry and biology faculty to be truly fantastic,” Rabe said. “They were very invested in the success of the students and try everything to get the students to succeed while still maintaining the appropriate level of rigor that is necessary in science courses.”

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Brian Rabe won the President’s Spirit of Southeast Award and the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture’s Experiential Learning Award this year.

In his quest to make a difference in the lives of others, he has shared his knowledge over the past three years with other Southeast students through the University’s Tutorial Service, providing more than 150 hours of tutoring. He served as a learning assistant and open lab tutor for general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics. He received Level I Certification through the College Reading and Learning Association.

He has been involved with numerous organizations on campus, including the Southeast Student Medical Society, Southeast Swim Club and intramural ping pong. He served as secretary of the Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-professional honor society. He also was inducted into the Phi Eta Sigma freshman honor society and Phi Kappa Phi national honor society. He also received the Outstanding Freshman Chemistry Award in 2012 and participated in the prestigious and competitive week-long experience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., last year.

In his spare time, he gained additional valuable experience as a volunteer with the Beacon Health Center

“From my first Anatomy and Physiology course to my research in the disciplines that form the foundation of medicine, many of my experiences have served to assure me that I want to pursue a career in medicine, and all of my experiences have prepared me to do so,” Rabe said.

As he completes his finals days as a Southeast Missouri State student, Rabe can take pride in his accomplishments, including two awards he recently received: the President’s Spirit of Southeast Award, presented to members of the University community who exhibit talent, spirit and generosity, and the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture’s Experiential Learning Award.

“Given his commitment to the Southeast Missouri State University community, we believe Brian truly embodies the Spirit of Southeast,” said Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University.