As the son of a military academy graduate, Muskogee’s John Saxon, M.D., grew up with a deep appreciation for the hard work needed to succeed in a service career. He also knew that even the country’s top students could benefit from practical experience in a research laboratory.
With a generous gift to OMRF, Saxon, an OMRF board member, established the John H. Saxon Service Academy Summer Research Program to honor his late father, a West Point graduate and career Air Force pilot. The program provides military academy students the opportunity to perform hands-on research with senior-level scientists at the Oklahoma City foundation.
This year, two midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and one cadet from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., spent part of their summer break working in OMRF laboratories.
“This is my first experience in a research work environment, and it has exceeded my expectations,” said Eileen Dilks of Lawrenceville, Ga., midshipman second class at the Naval Academy. “Because I am an engineering major, I wanted an internship that would allow me to invest in my interest in the medical field. This internship makes up one third of my summer, along with military training and leave. I’ve been given the opportunity to live on my own and learn beyond the Naval Academy’s curriculum, and I love the independence.”
Students are selected by science faculty at each academy. They plan their stays at OMRF around their summer military training exercises. The Saxon program runs alongside OMRF’s larger Fleming Scholar Program and is the newest of the foundation’s long-running educational initiatives. Since 1956, OMRF has trained more than 500 Oklahoma high school and college students through the Fleming Scholar Program, and more than 800 advanced-degree students have trained in OMRF labs through postdoctoral fellowships and graduate student scholarships.
Naval Academy midshipman second class Bryan Kaps of Mountain Grove, Mo., said his ultimate goal is to become a Navy doctor. “I have a natural desire to serve, but at the same time I like biology, chemistry, and human physiology and would love to serve utilizing my strengths.”
Adriana Zamora, a senior Air Force Academy cadet from San Antonio, Tex., knew that OMRF was the right place to spend her summer. “We can apply within our academic major to do a summer research program,” Zamora said. “After seeing all the choices, I immediately wanted to come to OMRF. I am very happy that I chose to come here and represent the Academy. Everyone here is so incredibly smart, and I’m grateful to be here and hear about all the amazing things that people are working on.”
“The Saxon Program is a great way for us to keep expanding OMRF’s educational platforms,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “We’re grateful to Dr. Saxon for helping us join with the academies to educate tomorrow’s physicians and researchers.”