Medcalf Accepts Offer from Johns Hopkins


Emily Loughridge

Delaney Medcalf practices using a pipette in a lab on the third floor of Austin Hall.

Emily Loughridge, Editor-in-Chief

Thump, thump, thump…

Your heart feels like it is going to rip out of your chest, it’s beating faster than normal. A doctor is hovering around you, poking and prodding you. Eventually you learn that you have Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) and you need a procedure called cardiac ablation, which will freeze a piece of tissue in your heart to bring your heartbeat back to a normal pace. This traumatic experience would shake anyone up – no matter their age. An 11-year-old went through this procedure. Yet, instead of fearing medicine, she said her eyes were opened to the impact of a kind physician.

This 11-year-old child grew up into a young woman, who has spent the last few years at USAO and recently accepted an offer at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) for a two-year Post Bachelorette Research Education Program (PREP). This young woman is Delaney Medcalf, a senior Biology major. Medcalf recently accepted an offer to attend JHU starting this summer, which means she will pack her bags after graduating from USAO and take a road trip to Baltimore, Maryland. While this is technically considered a gap year before Medcalf begins applying for dual degree programs, the experience she receives will make her a more competitive dual degree candidate.

A dual degree means that Medcalf would work towards earning a M.D. and a Ph.D. at the same time, and would therefore be handed two diplomas when she graduated. Medcalf said she wants a dual degree because she can the practice medicine and do clinical microbiome research. A dual degree would allow Medcalf to pursue her love of science and learning while medical school would teach her the skills to help people through modern medicine – it’s the best of both worlds in Medcalf’s eyes.

“One of the biggest things I have learned in the last year when it comes to being prepared to become a doctor is that setbacks are not failures,” said Medcalf. “Deciding to take a gap year or two will not hurt me in the long run, especially if I use that time to really solidify these goals and expectations I have for myself before I get there.”

The PREP program at JHU, which is ranked third in medical research, will place Medcalf in a lab as a research technologist for two years. Currently, Medcalf is interviewing with several labs to find a place that suits her interests and can mentor her most effectively. One lab researches the relationship between certain types of cancers and the microbiome. Another looks at how the microbiome impacts the cardiovascular system, and a third examines the microbiome and its broader implications on human health. Once Medcalf is in her second year, she said she will have an opportunity to present her research at a conference. Throughout this period, Medcalf said she plans to study for MCAT and retake the exam until she receives a score she deems high enough.

“Delaney is an impressive young person who has worked harder than most to ensure her future and combined with her natural intelligence, has positioned herself well to do whatever she wants,” said Dr. Rachel Jones, Dean and associate professor of Environmental Science and Biology. “She likely would have received acceptance directly into Ph.D./M.D. programs, but her choice to pursue a preparatory program first shows how serious she is in making sure she is well prepared for medical school when the time comes.”

Conducting and presenting research is not a new thing for Medcalf. In her undergraduate degree, Medcalf worked on two research projects and was able to present findings at the National American Chemical Society Conference in Chicago in August 2022. The first research experience was with Dr. Dany Doughan, associate professor of Chemistry, Tyler Lavey and Joseph Ummel. The group investigated the Ab initio investigation of the solvent-facilitated unimolecular dissociation dynamics of tert-butyl halide potential energy surfaces. Medcalf said they hope to have a publication of their findings in the future, as they have worked on the paper this spring. Her second research opportunity was with Dr. Jones, in which they investigated the retention of the oral microbiome across three familial generations at the University of Oklahoma’s (OU) LMAMR lab. Medcalf said this allowed her an opportunity to collaborate with other facilities to complete a project, which will aid her in the future.

Becoming a doctor is a daunting task, filled with hundreds of obstacles along the way. How does one prepare for the years of school, long nights of cramming for exams, and all-round challenges of becoming a doctor? Medcalf said she has prepared through lots of studying, researching her options, going to medical school hosted events, and relying on others for help when she is unsure of what to do. She has not decided on a definite avenue of medicine yet, but she has spent time shadowing in the Emergency Room, which she said she enjoyed because of the face-past environment, and alongside a family practitioner, which she enjoys because of the connects made with patients. In a moment of honesty, Medcalf said that no one in her family has received a dual degree so trying to figure out the process has led to extreme frustration and tears at times.

“There have been lots of times where my studies have taken priority over having fun or going home,” said Medcalf. “But as I have progressed through my time at USAO, I have learned the importance of balance to avoid burnout.”

One of the biggest pieces of advice that Medcalf shared was to try new things and to not limit yourself. She continued to say she had no idea that she would love ceramics had she not been pushed to try it. Medcalf said she is nervous for her big move to Baltimore, but one of these ways she is steeling those nerves is by finding places in Baltimore that she is excited to visit. A few of the places include a pottery location so she can continue taking classes, art museums, Washington D.C., and taking a train to NYC to see the giant Christmas trees.

For Medcalf, this will be the first time she has lived outside of Oklahoma for an extended period of time. She said she is excited to be in a new place, learn how to be more independent, and making new friends and connections.

“I am trying to soak up all the time and memories with friends and family between now and the move,” said Medcalf. “I have been making mental notes about making sure that my grandparents know how to access FaceTime so I can call them once I am up there and show them around.”

Medcalf’s family is one of her biggest inspirations; she said that one of her biggest motivators is wanting to help others and give back to her tribe. Looking at her family, Medcalf said that being a physician would allow her to help her family in such a unique way. She believes that a good doctor is someone who really listens to what the patient is saying and looks at how the bodily systems interact to cause the ailment, while being kind, patient, and a good communicator. She said it is not just about treating the body, but treating the soul as well.

No one seemed surprised when Medcalf announced she was accepted into JHU’s program, except Medcalf herself. Dr. Nicholas Boyd, assistant professor of Chemistry, said that he was happy and proud when he heard that one of USAO’s students were able to pursue their dreams at such a prestigious program. Thomas Willcock, instructor of Chemistry and lab coordinator, agreed and said Medcalf is an outstanding student with a proven track record of academic excellence, high quality scholarly work, and community service and engagement.

“Now, me, a girl from a small, Oklahoma high school and college is going to a school I have dreamed about attending since middle school,” said Medcalf.

Medcalf will graduate from USAO Saturday, April 29th with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and minors in Chemistry, Liberal Arts, and Psychology. The next step is for Medcalf to begin applying to dual degree programs, in which she said she is looking toward Ivy Leagues, abroad programs, and other universities.


Emily Loughridge is a second-year Communication major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.