Finding My ‘Life of Success and Significance’

By Mary Funke, Class of 2013, Emergency Medicine Resident Doctor at Duke Health

I never know what kind of challenges my patients are facing when they’re rushed into the Duke Health Emergency Room in Durham, North Carolina.

Sometimes it’s appendicitis. Sometimes it’s severe trauma from a car crash.

What I do know is that my work as a resident medical doctor helps families through some of the most difficult times in their lives. HPU prepared me for that.

My name is Mary Funke, and I’m a 2013 High Point University graduate. I majored in chemistry with a pre-med track and received the kind of one-on-one mentorship, research and experiential learning opportunities that made me a prime candidate for medical school.

Before all of that, I was a high school kid from Ohio looking for a campus where I could transform into the best version of myself. I remember wondering if I could really make it to medical school, and if so, who’d help me along the way.

Then I found High Point University.

When I visited, I instantly fell in love with the campus, the people and the professors, all of whom said they were there to support me. Dr. Kelli Sapp is one of the first people I met on my scholarship visit, and she explained how strong HPU’s science programs are.

Dr. Sapp took me under her wing and helped me find research opportunities at HPU, but also around the country. Literally – every summer – I was conducting research with new scientists and physicians, from an internship with Wake Forest Baptist Health near campus, to a summer at Cornell University and another Georgia Health Science University. I went on to present my work at national conferences in front of experts in their fields. I was one of just a few students selected to present at the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Mary Funke, Class of 2013, is pictured at Cornell University, one of several locations where she completed summer internships during her time at HPU.

But life is also about balance – something that HPU President Nido Qubein taught in his Life Skills Seminar for freshmen. He shared with us how the most fulfilling life is about success, but also significance.

So I took advantage of all of the opportunities HPU offers.

I lived in the Honors residence hall where I met some of my very best friends, and I joined Alpha Phi Omega, the campus service fraternity. I volunteered more than 1,000 hours of service during my time at HPU, including a trip to Nicaragua.

My classmates and I boarded a plane to Central America to help a school that serves children with hearing impairments. We painted their classrooms, planted a garden and spent quality time with the children. Even though we couldn’t communicate with them perfectly, we were still able to play games with them and make them smile. We were able to make an impact.

Science has always been a big part of my life. But so has the desire to serve.

Between service and research, I spent many hours in Dr. Sapp’s office fine-tuning my medical school applications. Her door was always open.

Funke, pictured in the center in yellow, traveled to Nicaragua with classmates when she was a student at HPU.

By the time I landed medical school interviews, all of the interviewers kept asking the same question:

“How did you find so many different research opportunities?”

Hard work. A willingness to learn. And HPU. That’s what I told them.

Fast-forward to today, and I still think back on all I learned at HPU. I think about my mentors, who I still see often. In fact, I saw Dr. Sapp at a conference in Omaha just last year. We met for coffee and caught up on each other’s lives.

I think about my fellow classmates who became my best friends, like Nikki Sanford. She’s a patent attorney in Seattle, where she’s doing amazing things, too.

I think about the children that my classmates and I met in Nicaragua. We didn’t speak their language, yet we found ways to connect with them.

And I think about how that is so much like my life today.

In emergency medicine, 70 percent of my time is dedicated to communicating with all different types of patients and doctors. I have to convey my thoughts and my treatment strategy in a clear way. I have to ask the right questions to figure out what’s going on with my patients. I have to collaborate with people who are different than me.

HPU prepared me for that. I went on to complete medical school at Creighton University, and now I’m living the fast-paced, never-a-dull moment lifestyle of a physician who can make a difference in the lives of others. And I absolutely love it.

If you’re a prospective student, I know HPU will help you find your passion, too, and the dedicated faculty and staff will do whatever it takes to get you there. Visit your MY HPU portal to take the next steps.


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