by Amy Vaerewyck
Mary Naam grew up in Illinois, graduated from Harvard University, competed on "Jeopardy!," worked in New York City and traveled through Asia before coming to the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Now, she’s graduating from med school and will stay in the area for her residency in general surgery at Denver Health. She recently participated in Spring Graduation 2012 on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
What drew a Harvard grad to the Anschutz Medical Campus?
“When I interviewed here, I was really impressed with the student body,” Naam said. She was attracted to the innovative combination of clinical, education and research opportunities on the Anschutz Medical Campus
. She also liked the laid-back atmosphere of the area and the easily-accessible entertainment options in the city of Denver.
Naam comes from a family of MDs. Fearing that she’d merely be following blindly in the footsteps of her doctor parents by studying medicine, she originally planned to be a lawyer. She began working at a law firm, but about the time she was studying for the LSATs, something changed.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said. But law felt too abstract to her. “I wanted to make a direct, tangible impact with my work.”
How do you learn to love med school?
Once Naam arrived at the CU School of Medicine, she was quickly initiated into the world of medicine. Her first required course was anatomy—which involved the intensive study of cadavers.
“It was surreal at first,” she said. “It sunk in we were actually going to be doctors.”
By her third year, Naam still wasn’t sure what she wanted to specialize in. She was nervous when she learned that her first rotation would be in surgery: scrubs, scalpels and a lot of stress. It turned out to be her favorite rotation.
“It’s interesting to be that close to the human body,” Naam said. “You can make a difference in just a few hours. I was hooked.”
Know anyone who’s shaken hands with Alex Trebek?
“It was exciting to represent Harvard on the show,” she said. And that might not even be the most exciting thing she’s done.
She took an 8-week trip around Asia, which included Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. And she spent four months in her family’s native Egypt volunteering at an orphanage.
Connecting with young girls from the country where her parents were born was bittersweet. “While I’ve had every opportunity, these girls have had none,” she said.
In the future, Naam may pursue pediatric surgery, and she hopes to be able to practice medicine abroad.
Was the CU School of Medicine the right choice?
“Med school was the best decision of my life,” Naam said. “We’re lucky to be here. This is the most amazing career out there.”