Fleming Scholar Program helped launch physician’s career

When she first stepped into a laboratory at OMRF in 1995, Lydia Nightingale was fresh out of Chickasha High School. She’d been selected to participate in OMRF’s one-of-a-kind Fleming Scholar Program that year, and she looked forward to spending eight weeks working in a real lab.

Although she was a mere 40 miles from home, Nightingale soon realized she was worlds away from her comfort zone.

“I worked with scientists who were looking for genes associated with lupus,” said Nightingale. “They worked on projects at the molecular level and used equipment I never knew existed. That summer opened my eyes to countless new concepts, as well as all the resources available to a small-town girl like me. It let me know there was nothing I couldn’t do.”

Since 1956, more than 500 Oklahoma students have had the same eye-opening experience as Fleming scholars at OMRF. The application deadline for the 2013 Fleming Scholar Program is Feb. 1.

Nightingale says she struggled and often wondered why she’d chosen to participate in such a challenging program. But her Fleming experience helped her devise new ways to overcome obstacles, learn along with her peers and work to clear hurdles in her path. She entered Southern Nazarene University that fall ready to tackle any challenge that came her way.

“It was all great,” Nightingale said. “I wrote a scientific paper and gave a presentation to a roomful of scientists. The experience broadened my horizons and piqued my interest in medicine. It taught me that even if I hit a wall, I had the skills to get past it.”

Today, Nightingale is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. She maintains a thriving OB/GYN practice and also serves as co-medical student clerkship director, where she guides third-year medical students through their obstetrics and gynecology rotations.

“The Fleming Scholar Program provided me a great opportunity to work in a cutting-edge environment and prepared me for the challenges I faced in college,” Nightingale said. “My Fleming classmates and I worked together and learned valuable lessons together. I fully believe that summer prepared me for the career I have today.”

High school seniors, as well as college freshmen, sophomores and juniors, are eligible to apply for the program. Students must be Oklahoma residents at the time of high school graduation and at least 16 years of age to qualify.

The Fleming Scholar Program allows selected students to enhance their research skills by working alongside world-class scientists for eight weeks in OMRF’s state-of-the-art laboratories. Projects will focus on key research areas like cancer, lupus or heart disease. Scholars are paid and also receive free housing, if eligible.

For additional information and application forms, please visit www.omrf.org/fleming.