Dream to become a physician coming true for microbiology graduate

May 5, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

When Zach LeBaron was a young child, he would sit on his mother’s lap and scour her textbooks while she was studying to become a medical assistant. He especially liked to look at the diagrams of human anatomy and pretend to explain to her what was going on. Zach LeBaron Zach LeBaron is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and has been accepted to the Creighton School of Medicine. Download Full Image

The seed to study medicine was planted. But so was another desire — learning.

LeBaron was born and raised in Colorado, but once he started his college search, found himself drawn to the culture at Arizona State University. After his entire family moved to Arizona, he decided that ASU had everything he wanted.

In addition to a diverse and inclusive culture, LeBaron felt ASU offered him a community where he could constantly evolve and grow.

As it turns out, ASU was a perfect fit. LeBaron is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and has been accepted to Creighton's School of Medicine.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: I think an overall lesson that I learned while at ASU was the sheer magnitude of things that I didn’t know, and how important the pursuit of knowledge would become for me. Each of my classes expanded my understanding of life in such a huge way and provided a new glimpse into something that was completely foreign to me prior. I have always been amazed at the intellect of and knowledge of each of my professors, and it has helped me to see the importance of continually expanding one’s own understanding.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in your field?

A: Besides going through the phase of wanting to be an astronaut, I have always had a desire to go into medicine. When I worked in an orthopedic center as a clinical assistant, I saw how much joy and fulfillment there was in the treatment of other people.

I guess my “aha” moment came when an elderly woman who had previously been debilitated by her knee pain returned after a joint-replacement surgery with a smile on her face and expressed gratitude to the doctor with whom I worked. It touched me to see how much good someone could do for an individual person, by helping to get them their health back. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I feel fortunate to have had some wonderful professors, but one of the most valuable lessons for me came from my advanced English professor [Kent Linthicum]. As someone who loathed English growing up, I was blindsided with how much a good professor can change one’s outlook on a subject. He taught me that being a well-rounded student was crucial to becoming a good doctor. He discussed often how his course could benefit me personally in my career, and it helped me to engage more fully with the course material.  

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would say to stop and smell the roses! As I’m preparing for the next step in life, I can’t help but feel that my time at ASU was like turning the pages in a book. I enjoyed every day that I was given, but there were times where I just wanted to be done with college. However, just like when you finish the last page of the book and it closes, I feel that is how the college experience goes and you can’t go back to read it again. Therefore, it’s important to enjoy the moments that we have in college!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I spent a lot of my time in the Institute building on campus. It was a great place to meet new friends as well as add some religious learning for a well-balanced college experience. Next would have to be Chick-fil-A.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be heading to Creighton medical school in the fall to pursue my dream of becoming a physician.

Q: What’s something you are most proud of during your time at ASU?

A: Besides making some of the best lifelong friends that someone could ask for, I am proud of who I have become following my time at ASU. This experience has helped me to see the importance of expanding my own viewpoint and seeing life through the eyes of those around me. I have also felt an increase in empathy for those who come from different backgrounds, and an appreciation for them as human beings.

Q: What did ASU provide to you that you think you could not have found anywhere else?

A: I am sure that everyone is biased to their university, but without a doubt ASU was the best choice for me. The drive that the college possesses to include as many viewpoints, people and ideas as possible while pushing for the next innovative idea has really come to be a part of how I evaluate the world.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: One issue that I feel passionate about is helping to fight childhood obesity and diabetes. I feel that solving this problem would better the lives of so many individuals around the world.

Q: Describe some challenges or hurdles you faced while earning your degree, and what you did or what took place to overcome them.

A: I remember one of the greatest hurdles during my time at ASU was finding balance between school, work, family, friends and simply enjoying life. It also seemed that during the times where I was trying to do everything in my life at once, it seemed like I wasn’t doing exceptionally at any of them. I remember realizing that I couldn’t do multiple things at once, but I could do one thing at a time, and do it very well. I decided that when I was in school, I would dedicate myself wholly to learning and performing well in class.

Whenever I was with family or friends, I would only focus on interacting with them. Dedicating myself to each individual task rather than doing everything intermingled at once helped me to create a healthy balance in my life.

Q: Are there any particular people who really supported you on your journey — and what did they do to help?

A: I wouldn’t have been able to dedicate myself so fully to ASU without the love and support of my family and my wife. They have been my rock and continually motivated me to go the extra mile in my classes, while also providing an outlet to destress after a long day.

Q: Looking back, is there anything you would go back and change?

A: If I could go back and start over at ASU, I would take advantage of all the different clubs at ASU and join as many as my time would allow. I enjoyed my time working in hospitals, as well as the other activities in which I participated; however, I would love to have seen another side of ASU!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I am grateful to ASU, my professors, advisers and all of those at the school who have supported and guided me throughout my undergraduate. Even though I am moving on to medical school, I will always be a Sun Devil at heart!

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise


Receiving help led applied biological sciences graduate to help others

May 5, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

It was an early exposure to medical issues in William Harper’s family that sparked Harper’s interest in majoring in applied biological sciences and pursuing a career in medicine: “It made me extremely curious to know how the human body works, why it fails to work, and how to fix it,” he said. ASU applied biological sciences graduate William Harper William Harper, an outstanding graduate in applied biological sciences at ASU's Polytechnic campus, said he found Professor Marianne Moore's dedication to her students and her research on bat immunology especially inspiring. Download Full Image

He completed his degree in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus and will be among the thousands of students graduating on May 6 looking to make the world a better place.

Harper, who is from Modesto, California, chose to attend ASU because of the resources available to propel his career.

“ASU was a good choice for financial reasons,” he noted. “I was also offered a position in Barrett [The Honors College], which seemed like a good opportunity to work with professors and become better prepared for medical school.”

While at ASU, Harper also took advantage of community opportunities in the East Valley to support his career. He interned in internal medicine and with the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center and Banner Gateway Medical Center's Emergency Department.

Along his ASU journey, Harper learned a simple but unexpected lesson that has changed his perspective about education. It’s one that bodes well for the kind of integrative medical practitioner he will become.

“It seems simple, but a professor my freshman year made me realize that taking classes is not just about passing the class,” he reflected. “I have come to believe education is about personally integrating the information presented in order to enhance your understanding of the world, to be a more competent individual in your career and your life.”

Harper recently shared more with ASU Now about the opportunities he has taken advantage of at ASU and his plans for the future.

Question: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

Answer: I think I learned the most important lessons from Dr. Marianne Moore by observing her immense dedication to her research and her students. The patient but unfailingly enthusiastic attitude she displays in her study of bat immunology, and in her assistance to students, has shown me that picking a career you love makes all the work worth it.

Q: What was your favorite spot on Polytechnic campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The library was probably the spot I would most consider my home base on campus. I actually worked there for over a year and still go in there when I need a minute to put life together or hours to dedicate to an assignment.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Make the most out of your education for you! Treat new concepts as potentially vital tools for your pursuit of the fields that interest you most.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be participating in research and applying to medical school.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would give funding to labs working to understand and engineer novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Written by Imani Stephens, class of 2019, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; student marketing assistant, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.