Kate Johnson

College of Medicine – Tucson
Year Entered Program: 
Degrees Received: 

Bachelor of Science in Biology-Chemistry, Summa Cum Laude & Honors Scholar at Point Loma Nazarene University

About Me: 

Hello, I’m Kate! I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and completed my Bachelors of Science in Biology-Chemistry at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. My interest in medical research began in high school when my grandparents were diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, which led me to conduct a capstone project studying neuroregeneration during my senior year. At PLNU, I joined Dr. Dorrell and Dr. Woelbern’s lab (DoWo) on their human papillomavirus project, where we analyzed the mechanisms of high-risk versus low-risk strains and visualized degradation of the tumor suppressor Rb via HPV’s E7 oncoprotein. During my senior year, I conducted my honors thesis project within the DoWo lab on the polarization of tumor-associated macrophages within the glioblastoma microenvironment. I also worked as a cell culture intern at the Lowy Medical Research Institute, where we differentiated iPSCs into retinal organoids to model Macular Telangiectasia Type 2. During the pandemic, PLNU also began a COVID-19 testing lab, where I worked as a lab tech. I was fortunate to also assist my campus’s Wellness Center as an extern, where I led our saliva sample collection site for COVID testing, helped organize vaccination events, and interacted with patients in the clinic. I found it very fulfilling to participate on both sides of our COVID-19 response.

As a freshman at PLNU, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Health Promotion Center, a clinic in Mid-City San Diego that primarily serves a low-income immigrant patient population. I witnessed vast healthcare inequities, which sparked my passion for improving healthcare accessibility. The following summer, I traveled to Thailand on a medical service trip. Over three weeks, I served migrant workers from Myanmar, women in Bangkok’s red light district, and remote Lahu villages in northern Thailand through a series of popup clinics. I realized that health is a common denominator; it unifies people of all backgrounds. Back in San Diego, I helped establish a weekly popup clinic serving the homeless and uninsured in downtown. I am eager to continue working with underserved and marginalized communities to help identify preventable diseases before they become critical, increase health literacy, and reduce health disparities.

My experiences over the years have led me to pursue both MD and PhD degrees through the University of Arizona Medical Scientist Training Program. I hope to bridge the gap between basic science research and clinical medicine by becoming a physician-scientist. Ideally, one day I will study stem cell biology and regenerative medicine in the lab and dedicate the rest of my time to treating patients.