COSAM » News » Articles » 2016 » July » Q and A with Dr. Kacie Jackson Saulters: the journey from first-generation college student to assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University

Q and A with Dr. Kacie Jackson Saulters: the journey from first-generation college student to assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University

Published: 07/20/2016

By: Lindsay Miles Penny

How did you choose to come to Auburn?

Originally I thought, given family finances, that I would attend community college prior to transferring to a four-year university. My family had always been Auburn fans so I decided to apply to Auburn, just to see what would happen. Not only did I get accepted, but I was also blessed to receive a full-tuition scholarship allowing me to go straight to a four-year university.

Tell us about your time at Auburn.

As a first-generation college student, and one of only a few high school friends who went straight to a four-year university, I didn’t really know what to expect from Auburn when I arrived. At first, I was quite nervous and didn’t get involved right away. After I transitioned into the College of Sciences and Mathematics, I started out by doing supplemental instruction for a non-majors biology class. Then, I became a peer advisor for pre-health students and a COSAM Leader. Thanks to Anne Gorden, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and former COSAM Dean Marie Wooten, I was inspired to start a chapter of the Association for Women in Science at Auburn (AWIS); an organization that is still active on campus today. I was involved with the Auburn Christian Student Center, and spent some summers abroad in Peru and Panama doing mission work.

What made you want to go into the medical field and ultimately teach?

I was not one of those kids who grew up knowing I would become a doctor, but I did know I wanted to work in some type of ‘helping profession’ where I got to work closely with people. I actually started out at Auburn with a major in psychology. My freshman year, I took Dr. (Robert) Lishak’s (associate professor of biology) general biology course as a requirement for my degree. I was surprised at how challenging and fascinating the course was, and at how much I enjoyed studying for it. I actually met with him during the year to discuss these feelings, and he encouraged me to change my major to biology, which I did! At that point, I still had no idea what I would do within the field. I had some basic science research opportunities in the summer, and shadowed at a local physical therapy center. Both were good learning experiences, but I didn’t find them exciting enough to pursue a career in. Eventually, I narrowed down my choices to public health and medical school, with the idea to use my newfound love for biology in a helping profession. I did both a public health internship and extensive physician shadowing and decided on the latter about six months prior to my December 2007 graduation! In terms of staying in academics, now as an assistant professor, my love for teaching definitely started at Auburn. Between leading supplemental instruction and the incredible experience I had as an undergraduate teaching assistant in biology labs, I knew I wanted teaching to be an aspect of whatever career I chose. Seeing the look on a student’s face when he or she understood a biology concept for the first time was so exciting and rewarding, and I still get that feeling when I help my medical students listen to a heart murmur or feel an enlarged spleen for the first time now!

Tell us about your life after Auburn.

After Auburn, I attended medical school at the University of South Alabama. Halfway through medical school, I married a wonderful man named Stuart Saulters. He's a civil engineer and graduated from Mississippi State, so fortunately, that rivalry isn't too hard on our marriage! I was fortunate to match into my first choice of residency at the University of Virginia (where George Petrie was from and where they share Auburn’s colors). I completed my internal medicine residency there in June 2015 with a concentration and some research experience in global health. Stuart's job brought us to the D.C. area around that time, and I now have my first ‘real job’ as a hospitalist and assistant professor of internal medicine at Georgetown University.

How do you feel COSAM prepared you for your life and career after graduation?

COSAM prepared me in so many ways, and I could talk about it for a long time! Given that I really didn’t know what I wanted to do prior to college, I feel that my experiences in COSAM and the people in COSAM really helped shape me and guide me into the physician I am now. I learned to love biology from Dr. Lishak, which shaped my career choice. The guidance, encouragement and mentorship from the COSAM advisors and specifically Beverley Childress, director of pre-health professions programs, always kept me going in the right direction. Drs. (Anne) Gorden (associate professor of chemistry) and Wooten gave me the confidence to start something new with AWIS. My favorite course at Auburn was parasitology with Dr. Christine Sundermann (professor of biology). Little did I know, her class would spark my interest in neglected tropical diseases and global health, and I now have a pending publication related to this! I could never say enough about Dr. Larry Wit (emeritus professor of biology and former associate dean for academic affairs). He was my professor, advisor and mentor, and someone who I will always look to as the ultimate example of excellence in teaching, leadership, and truly caring for each and every one of his students. In summary, COSAM instilled in me a love of science, gave me a strong educational foundation, and confidence that I could be successful in whatever path I chose! 

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