Peter Palmer stepped onto campus for the first time as a high school freshman in the inaugural class of the Bio-Med Science Academy, a STEM+M school housed on NEOMED’s campus. Now he has returned to earn an M.D. – the first Bio-Med student to matriculate at NEOMED.
“Coming back to NEOMED for medical school was always the plan for me. From a young age, I knew I wanted to go into medicine, so that’s what I set my sights on and worked towards,” says the first-year College of Medicine student.
Palmer was part of Bio-Med’s first graduating class in 2016 – a cohort of students that he describes as the Academy’s “guinea pigs.”
Joking aside, the foundation was a good one, says Palmer, preparing him well for both his undergraduate education and for medical school. Just one example: “In one of the classes I’m taking right now, called Community Experience, we work with community members to discuss certain health problems, like diabetes and high blood pressure, then work towards solving them. At Bio-Med, I was involved in a group called Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC), and we worked in the Rootstown community on a very similar project,” says Palmer.
Learning in the lab
As a senior in high school, Palmer completed an internship in the lab of Denise Inman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
After graduating from the University of Akron, a NEOMED partner university, Palmer decided to continue his work with Dr. Inman for the University’s Summer Research Fellowship Program.
“It’s pretty cool that I have the opportunity to continue what I did in high school. In general, research is an important aspect of any physician’s career. It gives you a deeper understanding of the processes behind the diseases that you come in contact with. It gives you a chance to appreciate those processes,” says Palmer.
His work in NEOMED’s Neurodegenerative Disease and Aging research focus area on glaucoma even earned him honors at NEOMED’s annual Poster Day.
Let Palmer explain.
“Glaucoma is a disease that causes increased pressure in the eye. That increased pressure can lead to degeneration of the optic nerve that transmits the things you see to your brain, which then interprets it. That degeneration can eventually lead to blindness.
“Specifically for this project, we looked at what happens metabolically in the optic nerve. We studied different markers of metabolism and how nutrients are being delivered to the optic nerve when there is damage to it.
“We also tried to restore the functions and impairments that happened through the use of a ketogenic diet that is primarily composed of fats,” he says.
Putting his best foot forward
Palmer is finding an appreciation for all aspects of medicine, but he shares that there’s one part of medicine he looks forward to the most.
“There’s a multitude of reasons why I want to become a physician, but I think the doctor-patient interaction is truly special. I think interacting with the patients will be pretty rewarding,’’ says Palmer.
“I hope to be seen as a guide and mentor to people in the community one day.”