From seniors to citizens: Open doors

Senior spring to social security. On the hill to over the hill. Graduation to … grandchildren? Here’s what seniors have to say before all is said and done. 

From a young age, Emma Mitchell-Sparke traveled the world with her family. Now, as a worldly student bound for medical school, Mitchell-Sparke said, “I think I love meeting people from all different backgrounds and really getting to know people, and I think that kind of communication skill and empathy for others will enable me to be a better and more compassionate physician.” 

Mitchell-Sparke spoke of her potential to be a socially aware doctor with an introspective thoughtfulness that implies hours honing personal statements for a slew of medical schools, but in reality she only applied to one. 

That school, Tufts University School of Medicine, accepted her through its Early Assurance Program. Mitchell-Sparke confided: “Don’t tell the Tufts admissions committee this, but I didn’t know I wanted to pursue medicine. I was excited about the possibility of pursuing medicine, but I wasn’t sure it was exactly what I wanted to do.” 

Mitchell-Sparke majors in both sociology and French. As an Eco-Rep, she tables with fellow environmental enthusiasts on Meatless Mondays. She plays the saxophone in multiple music groups, tutors through the Academic Resource Center and organizes soirees for the French House.

 “I was a little worried that I would be closing doors by going into medicine, and even when I was accepted into the program, I took the entire year to decide if that’s really what I wanted to do,” she said. 

Ultimately, Mitchell-Sparke ruled in favor of medical school, and she credits a combination of influential figures with helping her to render that verdict.

 “[Dean Carol Baffi-Dugan] showed me how a medical degree can really open doors and how my background in the social sciences and humanities here can still be very much pursued as a doctor,” she said. 

Mitchell-Sparke relied on her friends here, too. “Friends can be great advisors. Having them make you think about what is important to you in your life, not only as a career but kind of as a lifestyle in whatever career you choose, is really good,” she said. 

Next year, many thousands of miles will separate Mitchell-Sparke from her great advisors. She might pursue a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge; she might teach English in Southeast Asia. She studied abroad in Paris last spring, and she foresees many foreign interludes to come. 

“Before settling down anywhere, I definitely want to be moving around for a while. I could see doing something like Doctors without Borders in French-speaking countries because I’d love to use my French skills and really try and help in partnership with local health facilities in other parts of the world,” she said. 

Mitchell-Sparke intends to become an academic doctor who teaches classes, sees patients and conducts research, but her flexible mindset opens doors to many opportunities. This semester, for example, she is taking Spanish, which is just one of her seven classes aimed at satisfying her considerable curiosity.

Reflecting on her path through Tufts and her excitement for the future, she said, “Giving ourselves the freedom to explore and to understand ourselves better … is the best way to be approaching life.”