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Fan’s Mission: Curing Cancer

Wootton Graduation 2005

Angela Fan has dreamed of going to medical school and helping find a cure for cancer since she was 7 years old. At that age, Fan’s mother died of breast cancer, and one of her aunts died of breast cancer four years later.

Fan graduated from Thomas Wootton High School this month. She will attend Columbia University and major in biomedical engineering next fall.

“She’s a very upbeat girl; she’s very positive,” said Dorothy Wiseman, a guidance counselor at Wootton. “There’s something beyond the normal student in her. … She has a grace and a wisdom about her.”

Fan was one of 20 Montgomery County students to receive a Howard Hughes Internship to work at the National Institute of Health. Fan interned at the National Cancer Institute Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology last summer. She studied camptothecin, an anti-cancer drug.

“It was a good experience,” Fan said. “I learned how much effort had to be put into research. … I never realized how much effort you have to do to advance science,” Fan said.

“It was beginning of the path to Fan volunteered in the last two summers at the oncology department of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. “I’ve never really known what an oncologist does,” Fan said. “I got to see what the doctors and nurses do.”

IN HER FREE TIME, Fan likes to hang out with her friends, play piano or read — “Pride and Prejudice” is a favorite. She will go to Taiwan this summer to visit her family. “Being in Taiwan is completely different,” Fans said. “It’s not as spacious as it is here.” The city is full of street vendors and night markets. On trips to the rural areas, there are farmers growing fruit and rice.

“I enjoyed going to Wootton,” Fan said. “It was a challenge there [and] taking physics courses made me want to do engineering.”

For now, Fan has had enough of suburban living. Columbia’s city environment appeals to her, as does the proximity to so many medical internship opportunities in New York. Columbia’s core curriculum is also an attraction — Fan is eager to take humanities courses.

“I’m excited to be able to move on and go to a higher place,” Fan said. “It will bring me one step closer to my dream of curing cancer.”