President’s medalist: Casey Cummins

Casey CumminsCasey Cummins says it makes his head spin to think he’s the 2020 recipient of the University of Washington Bothell President’s Medal. 

The honor recognizes the graduating senior with the most distinguished academic record. And after barely graduating from high school, Cummins said, realizing that he was capable of this kind of achievement was a slow progression. 

“I went to community college for two years where I was able to feel things out and started to do well academically,” he said. “But when I got to UW Bothell, there was some way the School of STEM was able to infuse me with confidence.” 

Growing interest and expertise 

“I didn’t really like science before I came to UW Bothell, and then I fell in love with it,” Cummins said. “If you really like something, it’s really easy to take off on it.” 

Cummins credits Senior Lecturer Kim Gunnerson in the Physical Sciences Division of the School of STEM — as well as others in the school — for giving him the confidence and qualifications he hopes will lead to a career as a physician. 

Cummins took a course with Gunnerson his first quarter at UW Bothell and later became her teaching assistant. “She’s been the greatest mentor to me,” he said. 

Cummins also worked as a teaching assistant in biology classes and conducted biochemistry research with Associate Professor Peter Anderson. The research involves predicting how tightly a molecule will bind with a protein, which could be used to discover new drugs. Cummins says he would like to see improvements in the treatment or a cure for diabetes, which is prevalent in his family. 

Broadening his approach 

A June graduate, Cummins majored in Health Studies in the School of Nursing & Health Studies and minored in Biology and Chemistry. Going into the final days of spring quarter he had a 3.96 GPA and was as confident of his grasp of the sciences as his understanding of population health. 

“I feel very prepared. I can take on biology and chemistry,” he said, “but I also have a broader scope of upstream public health factors.“ 

Cummins plans to work before applying to attend medical school in 2022. The UW is his top choice because of its reputation for primary care and for the wide range of states for clinical rotations in the program known as WWAMI

He became a certified nursing assistant early this year so that he could apply for a hospital job, preferably at UW Medicine, where he might learn more about his own strengths and weaknesses — “to see where I can make the most impact, where I’m most useful.” 

Paving a way forward 

Being a president’s medalist is an incredible feeling, Cummins said. 

“For so many years, I just put my head down and worked,” he said. “I’m a competitive person, but more so with myself. I want to do better each time.” 

Cummins also wants to share his education and loved his UW Bothell experience because he could sit down and study with peers. Even though they were graded against each other on the curve, the feeling was: How can we get through this together? 

“It felt incredible to get recognized for my academic success, while also being able to do it my way — being focused on working with my peers,” he said. “In hindsight, from barely graduating high school to going to a community college my first two years to being where I’m at now, it spins through my head. Look where I came from. It’s pretty special.”

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