Featured Scholar: Laini Gaar

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Featured Scholar: Laini Gaar
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:


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Source Institution:
University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Scholar Profiles

Contact & Staff

University Scholars Program

Undergraduate Research



Featured Scholar:
Laini Gaar

2004 - 2005 University Scholar
Mentor: Martha Campbell Thompson

interest in science and medicine was encouraged
from a very young age. But it wasn't until a series
of traumatic incidents in high school that she
realized she was destined to become a doctor.

During her freshman year at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, doctors found a
bone tumor in Laini's leg. It was removed and, luckily, found to be non-cancerous. While
waiting for her leg to heal, the avid dancer poured herself into her science classes,
becoming particularly intrigued with biology. Then, during her junior year of high school,
Laini's best friend, Brooke, died of a heart attack at age 16. She had suffered from a
congenital heart condition for years, but unbeknownst to her doctors, she also had a
heart tumor. Shortly afterward, Laini's favorite high school teacher was diagnosed with
colon cancer and died the following year.

Laini graduated from high school in 2001 and came to UF with the goal of becoming a
doctor. She started out as a zoology major with a pre-medicine track, but later switched
to the university's new integrative biology major, which allowed her to take courses in
both zoology and botany. She became certified as a first responder for the Alachua
County Fire Rescue Reserves program, working with paramedics on the scene of car
accidents or helping out at community events, such as football games, where emergency
personnel are asked to be on call.

Between her sophomore and junior years, an acquaintance in a dance class told Laini of a
research opportunity in the College of Medicine. She took down the information and went
and interviewed to become a research assistant in Pathology Professor Martha Campbell-
Thompson's lab researching colon cancer. After a year of volunteering in the lab, Laini
was named a University Scholar. She says the combined experience of volunteering for
the Rescue Reserves and working in a research lab was the final step toward her
commitment to becoming a doctor.

"I liked the combination of the more knowledge-based scholarly aspect and the clinical
hands-on," she says. "Having both combined steered me in the right direction towards
medicine." Laini graduated from UF summa cum laude in spring 2005 and is now in her
first year of medical school at UF. She loves both the clinical and research aspects of the
field and is unsure in which she ultimately end up.

"I like the interaction with people, so in that respect I see myself as more of a clinician,"
she says. "But, at the same time, the thing I like about research is I have always seen
myself as a creative person and there is a lot of room for creativity in research."

Laini plans to get her MD, practice, and later consider getting a PhD and pursue research
in her area of specialty. "I want to find what field fascinates me the most, find my niche,
and then later do research in that field."


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