2014 Equity Intern: Donald Thomas

Thomas_Donald_150Having worked in a healthcare facility since 2009, Donald Thomas is already comfortable in a clinical setting.  He has his sights set on applying this clinical and patient care experience to earning a Master of Public Health and in becoming a medical osteopathic doctor.

Donald has completed 6,000 hours of bedside, patient and family experience care through Kindred Hospital of Phoenix, Arizona and St. Joseph Hospital. He studied Exercise Physiology at Valdosta State University, and conducted volunteer work with stroke, paraplegic, and quadriplegic patients. "All of my healthcare experiences have shaped my view of the human organism into improving the wellness of an individual," Donald says.

After practicing as a physician, Donald wants to teach at a university. "I believe the spread of knowledge will eliminate some of the health issues facing disadvantaged communities." He wants to gain research experience so that he can achieve his goals.

This summer, Donald has been one of eighteen full-time interns in the Summer Equity Research program at OHSU. Sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, this internship is an opportunity for diverse undergraduate students to conduct lab research and work with OHSU faculty.

Donald is working with Aaron Janowsky, Ph.D. of the Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatry department on characterizing the interactions of drugs with cannabinoid receptors that are endogenously expressed in the CNS (CB1) and immune system cells (CB2). They are using Human Embryonic Kidney (HEK) cells expressing recombinant CB1 and CB2 receptors, to determine their potential interactions with drugs such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, and synthetic cannabinoids. If the drugs block the receptors, they may be useful for preventing symptoms of marijuana intoxication and abuse. Results from their research may be used for controlling cannabinoid substances.

"Thus far [in the Summer Equity internship], my biggest surprises have been how much I enjoy working in the laboratory, the feedback from laboratory professionals, and hands on activities," says Donald.  "With limited lab experiences, I have been encouraged by my mentor and lab workers to move forward with confidence." 

Interested in the Summer Equity Internship Program? Contact David Martinez for more information.  

Posted on July 3, 2014. Write-up by Jillian Toda. Photo by Maileen Hamto.