Early choices set Scholar alumna down life-changing path in medicine

Jeff Rice
November 12, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Kristin Lambert remembers being vexed at the age of 7, when she asked her parents for a dog and was told that would not be possible because of her allergies.

“I remember thinking, ‘Why has no one figured this out? Someone should cure allergies so people can have dogs,’” she said.

Now in her fifth year of Penn State’s MD/PhD program, the Schreyer Honors College graduate is researching how allergic inflammation works and is hoping to use a bench-to-bedside approach to help provide relief to allergy sufferers of all ages.

During her sophomore year in Schreyer, Lambert remembers having trouble deciding on a career path for after graduation. She met with Schreyer Honors College Director of Career Development Lisa Kerchinski, who asked if Lambert had heard of dual degree MD/PhD training programs and mentioned an upcoming information session with Penn State Hershey’s MD/PhD program director.

Lambert attended that information session, went to a program retreat not long after, and completed a summer internship with the Penn State College of Medicine MD/PhD program before applying for admission. She wound up becoming the honors college’s first participant in the Schreyer Early Assurance MD/PhD program, which integrates medical and graduate education.

“Within a year’s time, I went from having no clue what I was going to do for a career to Lisa setting me on this fantastic trajectory and this life journey to become a physician scientist through Penn State,” Lambert said.

Lambert, who graduated with honors from the College of Agricultural Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in immunology and infectious disease, liked the way that major gave her the opportunities to explore different career paths much the same way she likes the versatility the MD/PhD program affords her. 

“You get to do research, see patients and be involved in clinical care,” she said, “and then you get to teach and do mentorship as well.”

Lambert recently received the Outstanding Scholar Alumni Mentor Award, which the Schreyer Honors College presents each year to an alumnus or alumna who has given his or her time to current students by sharing professional advice. Lambert, who remembers being influenced by the College’s Mentoring with Honors program when she was an undergraduate student, is now a mentor to current Schreyer Scholars in the same program, including one student who is currently pursuing the MD/PhD program.

“The best thing in the world I can do right now is pay it forward,” she said. “As a medical student I’m not in the position right now to give financially to the University, but what I can give is my time, be available, and give that type of advice that I got when I was being mentored.”

Lambert hopes that current students can apply the lessons she learned from taking a career path that came into focus quickly.

“Go after the things you’re passionate about. Don’t let people tell you no or that you’re not good enough,” she said. “There are going to be points in your life where you feel like other people have things figured out or they have a game plan. Your time is coming. The resources are there. Seek out help, seek out assistance, especially the honors college staff. You’re going to find those things that really click for you, and go after them with everything you’ve got.”

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.

Last Updated November 12, 2018