March 25, 2013
By Courtney Ratkowiak
It was a far cry from the University of Michigan Golf Course on the corner of Stadium and State and the classrooms in Dennison Hall. Former Michigan golfer Louisa Shu's career aspiration truly began 4,000 miles from Ann Arbor.
Three years before, Shu had entered the University as a general studies major with little idea of what to do after college. In July 2010, Shu, then an incoming senior on the women's golf team, traveled with pre-health club Medical Educational Service Opportunities to help treat residents in rural Panamanian villages. She, in a group with close friend and Michigan tennis player Denise Muresan, assisted and shadowed the doctors as they delivered diagnoses and prescribed medication. Many of the patients were older, in constant pain from crippling arthritis after being hunched over for years while working in the farms. While communicating with the residents in Spanish she had learned at the University and seeing the instant impact of the volunteer group, Shu realized her future was in healthcare.
Then, when Muresan told her about a friend who had loved the postgraduate Master of Science in Anesthesia program at Case Western Reserve University, Shu took the MCAT and applied to the program in hopes of becoming an anesthesiology assistant. But with tuition listed at more than $96,000 for two years, Shu needed a way to help defray the cost of her postgraduate education. In 2012, she was granted the Donald R. Shepherd Senior Scholar Award through the Michigan Athletic Department, an annual award given to student-athletes who are pursuing graduate education.
Shu's two-year program, through the Case Western School of Medicine, includes classroom studies, clinical instruction and month-long rotations in each specialty of anesthesia, including general surgery, obstetrics, burns and trauma, and pediatrics. Currently two semesters into the program, Shu said her athletic and academic experience in Ann Arbor has helped her excel with the rigorous curriculum at Case Western.
"This program is all about application and how you work with your hands and think on the spot," Shu said. "You're working in a hospital, which is really fast paced. You have exams, you have clinicals, and we're doing a lot of charity work. Being at Michigan and a student-athlete and having to juggle so many things prepared me for this program."
The scholarship was made possible by long-time donor Don Shepherd (BBA 1958), the former CEO of Boston-based investment management firm Loomis, Sayles & Co. Among other donations, his $3.5 million gift funded the construction of the Donald R. Shepherd Women's Gymnastics Training Center in 2002. He has endowed scholarships for numerous teams including field hockey, women's golf, volleyball, softball, women's tennis, women's cross country, women's gymnastics and women's swimming as well as the Michigan Marching Band.
After Shu decided she wanted to continue her studies, her extracurricular experience while at the University made her a natural candidate for the Donald R. Shepherd award. In addition to her success on the golf team and service work, the brain, behavior and cognitive science major worked as a research assistant for Dr. Elizabeth Peckham in the Mammalian Reproductive Endocrinology Lab after learning about the research in class. Shu worked on a project that investigated the behavioral effects of prenatal hormone treatments, and she assisted with behavioral observation research, data analysis and lab meetings.
Peckham quickly found Shu to be one of the best research assistants she had had to date, and named Shu's eagerness to learn, dependability and intelligence as what set her apart.
"I have a lot of students who show up and do what they have to do but don't fully engage, but from the time she started in the lab, she stood out as being one of the go-to students," Peckham said. "She'd be at the farm at 6 in the morning if I needed her to be there. She came in on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because she was in town and was more than happy to come in. I knew I could depend on her to do what needed to be done."
With the assistance of the Shepherd award, Shu entered the Master of Science in Anesthesia program in 2012 and is on track to graduate from the program in May 2014. Similar to her undergraduate time in Ann Arbor, Shu quickly became involved in extracurricular activities at Case Western, including the Health and Wellness Committee on the school's Graduate Student Senate. The committee helps graduate students learn more about health care and health insurance and sponsors preventative health-related activities, including exercise classes and cooking demonstrations.
The focus on fitness fit in well with Shu's athletic background in Ann Arbor. And with little time for golf during her postgraduate studies, Shu turned to running as a new, athletic way to relieve stress. Although she had never been a runner, with cardio workouts on the Michigan golf team mostly consisting of half-hour workouts on the treadmill or elliptical machines, she finished the Columbus Half Marathon in 2:04:29 in October.
And with another half-marathon in Cleveland potentially in Shu's future, as well as her wedding in June to former Michigan men's golfer Bill Rankin, Shu's schedule will stay busy until she graduates in 2014.
"I have no doubt she'll be fantastic in whatever she does, and pretty much whatever she sets her mind to, she can do," Peckham said. "The fact she can be an athlete, still do well in her classes, and still do research makes her a good student and a good team member."