It's All in the Egan Family: Twins to Join Parents in Medical Field
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
PHILADELPHIA (May 8, 2018) — Topping off an impressive Saint Joseph’s University experience, McNulty Scholar and biology major Marisa Egan’18 will attend the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology. She hopes to one day combine a love for teaching and biomedical research as a university professor.
Marisa, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, recently added a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to several other prestigious awards she received over the past four years, including the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. The highly competitive NSF fellowship, awarded to outstanding STEM students, gives Marisa annual funding of $34,000 for five years of graduate study.
“I feel so blessed to receive this award from the NSF,” she says. “When I found out, I immediately told my parents, my sister and my mentors — even though it was 7 a.m.”
She didn’t have far to go to share the news with her twin sister and best friend, Tera '18, her roommate for the past four years. Both young women loved bunking together as college students, and they have something else in common: As an SJU interdisciplinary health services major, Tera shares her sister's passion for the medical field, though her focus is different.
“I hope to inspire others through education and patient care,” says Tera, who will attend the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for a master’s in biomedical sciences, and will apply to medical school or a physician assistant program after earning the degree.
By all accounts, the sisters come by their disposition to health care, research and medicine, honestly. Their mother, Anne Egan, D.O., is an associate professor of family medicine at PCOM, and their father, John Egan, D.O., is a clinical assistant professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Both parents are osteopathic physicians, which means in addition to using conventional medicine, they can treat patients by manual manipulation of the musculoskeletal system.
Grateful to Saint Joseph's for helping them to discern their calling, both Marisa and Tera credit their parents for starting them on their way. Watching her mother in action, Tera, in particular, has been fascinated by the holistic approach to health care that osteopaths employ, which she says enables the body to self-correct. An internship in a pediatric osteopath’s office and another shadowing an osteopathic attending physician at PCOM helped to solidify her interest.
Jose Cerda, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, taught Tera in several classes and developed a “great friendship” with her. “Tera is one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and she has a great sense of humor,” he says. “Above all, she is caring and loyal. With Tera's personality traits and intelligence, I know she'll be an excellent health care practitioner.”
As a recipient of the John P. McNulty Scholarship, Marisa has worked as a research assistant with Shantanu Bhatt, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, on groundbreaking research performing a progressive study of the drug-resistant bacterium Escherichia albertii, which targets infants in underdeveloped countries causing diarrheal disease. Bhatt’s team has published several papers on E. albertii, with Marisa credited as lead author on one and co-author on another.
"The McNulty Scholars program gave me an amazing opportunity to work closely with Dr. Bhatt researching a pathogenic bacterium that sickens extremely vulnerable human beings," says Marisa. "I wouldn't have had the same experience elsewhere. Coming to Saint Joseph's was the best choice I've made so far."
Bhatt says that Marisa is one of the most gifted students he has worked with. “She has exhibited uninhibited enthusiasm in learning all that she can from her academic journey," he adds. "It's students like Marisa that provide motivation for teachers to go the extra mile for students.”
Contemplating their fall destinations, Marisa says it's a bonus that she and her sister are headed to the respective workplaces of their parents. According to Tera, her parents are "overjoyed" that she and Marisa are pursuing graduate school in the medical field, noting that they were careful not to stack the deck in favor of medicine.
“They always encouraged us to keep an open mind about our careers, and to make our own choices," Tera says. "They’re really happy we both found our own paths.”