Student Stories: Mark Tom

Mark Tom

Major: Biology

Mark Tom knew he wanted to study medicine before attending college. And he knew College of DuPage was the right place to start.

“I wanted to develop the skills needed to succeed at a four-year university. These skills included balancing my schedule, managing stress and growing study habits,” Tom said. “I also learned I could attend COD with tuition breaks through the Honors program, assuming I maintained a 3.5 GPA.”

Honors Program at COD

Tom did enter the Honors program, and he managed to earn several scholarships through the COD Foundation: the Cancer Federation Scholarship, the Ruth G. Nechoda Scholarship and the COD Textbook Award. These awards and the Honors tuition incentive helped Tom with his expenses.

But Tom got more from COD than he ever imagined.

“COD went far beyond in assisting me to achieve my goal of becoming a doctor,” he said. “Where I lacked in motivation, professors inspired. When I had no money, scholarships and financial aid provided. Hands down, however, the best gift I received from the College is the confidence to transform my dreams into a reality.”

Tom continued his education as a Pre-Med Physiology major at Seattle Pacific University, from which he graduated cum laude with his bachelor’s in Physiology. He traveled to Puerto Cortes, Honduras, for work in the Pam Roach Medical Clinic through a ministry known as World Wide Heart to Heart. He also ran a soccer camp and soccer tournament for the Children’s Village.

While applying to medical school, Tom worked as a research technician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in its Immunology Program. In 2015, he worked at a rural family practice, the Orcas Medical Center, on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands and completed an independent investigative inquiry and public health project. This involved developing and implementing an evidence-based training program for volunteers in health promotion for community seniors at the Orcas Island Senior Center.

Tom realized his dream of completing medical school when he graduated from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He had the honor of speaking in front of hundreds of UWSOM students, teachers, scholarship donors and families about his own story during the annual Scholarship Ceremony.

During his three-year residency at Kootenai Health Hospital and Kootenai Family Medicine Clinic, he further developed his medical knowledge base, clinical acumen, and technical and procedural skills in order to work as a doctor anywhere in the world. Tom then signed with Kaiser Permanente as a full-time family physician, but it was not the right fit for him.

“It served as a wake-up call to the challenges facing primary care and the deployment of health care consumerization by large corporate medical institutions,” he said. “While my experience working there was short, I learned the invaluable lesson of balancing my idealism with pragmatism. After some vision casting and thoughtful deliberation, I revisited my life’s mission statement and goals: serve humanity, build community, relieve suffering, care wholeheartedly and value relationship.”

Instead, Tom opened his own business, “Mark Tom, M.D.,” and is using his skills in a variety of ways: as an independent health and wellness coach and teacher; as a per diem urgent care physician at Providence Medical Group in Seattle; as an emergency medicine and hospitalist physician for Docs Who Care, which provides coverage for rural critical access hospitals in the state of Washington; as an associate clinical instructor for the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine; and as an academic mentor through the Skills that Shine mentorship program, where he works with disadvantaged undergraduate health professional students.  

“The post-pandemic situation in health care delivery is fraught with challenges and obstacles, and I have this incredible opportunity and privilege as a doctor in the community and within the profession,” he said. “Fortunately, there are opportunities to flip obstacles into pathways of growth and development: the advancements and implementation of technology within telemedicine services, the acceleration of clinical research and therapeutic application, and greater understanding and deployment of resources to advance health care equity.”Standard Inner: YouTube Embed Video

He is also applying for a fellowship in precision medicine to advance his knowledge and skills in applied genomics within health care.

“Precision medicine, in my opinion, is the future of health care,” he said. “I’ve already witnessed the application of gene targeted therapy in thousands of cancer patients, and that’s just one application. There are opportunities all over medicine to take advantage of these truly extraordinary breakthroughs in basic science and apply those to treatment and prevention.”

Tom is grateful to College of DuPage for providing a springboard to his personal development as a student. He would like to create a scholarship fund similar to the ones he received.

“Many thanks to the College and its faculty for their continued support and encouragement, which has led me to where I am today,” he said. “I still remember my early college days at COD – especially the relationships with my then-mentor Chris Petersen and many other professors in the Honors Program – and how it really laid a strong foundation for the work I do today. I am and will continue to be incredibly grateful.”

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