Emma Mohr
University of Iowa
Age: 28

 "[With the Kean Fellowship] I no longer worry that residency programs will question my sincerity about spending some elective time studying tropical medicine in foreign countries."


I was born in Adelaide, Australia, and spent my childhood in Papua New Guinea, where my parents were missionaries.  I have strong memories of attending boarding school, walking to remote villages in the mountains and lining up for typhoid vaccinations at school. My family moved to Wisconsin when I was 10 years old. I earned my bachelor’s degree at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota with majors in biology and biochemistry in 2005. 

I have almost completed my MD and PhD in the University of Iowa’s Medical Scientist Training Program. For my thesis research, I studied GB virus C inhibition of HIV infection with Dr. Jack Stapleton. I also rotated in other laboratories studying Ebola virus and visceral leishmaniasis. I’m drawn to infectious diseases, specifically the diseases which affect tropical regions of the world, like the region where I grew up and plan to pursue a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in infectious diseases.

What impact will the 2011 Kean Fellowship have on your future?
I was very excited to win a Kean Fellowship. This means that I can afford to travel to Brazil for a 6 week tropical medicine elective without worrying about how to pay for travel and housing. I am also very thankful for the recognition that goes along with this fellowship. I no longer worry that residency programs will question my sincerity about spending some elective time studying tropical medicine in foreign countries.

Describe some of your most memorable travel or work experiences.
When I travel, I love the sense of accomplishment that comes after a physically or mentally challenging experience. These are the experiences that I remember for many years. In 2009, my husband and I traveled to Australia to spend time with my extended family. The activity that provided me with the greatest sense of accomplishment and excitement was rock scrambling up Mt. Stapylton in the Grampians National Park. I am typically a conservative traveler and avoid participating in dangerous activities that involve climbing up rock faces with steep drop-offs far away from roads and other humans. After much argument, I was finally persuaded to climb to the top. The view of the entire national park was spectacular, with red-colored rocks jutting out of the tall gum tree landscape. Caves were drilled into the sides of the mountain by sand blown over centuries. Upon reaching the bottom, I felt triumph over my fears and knew that this activity would be remembered by both of us for many years to come. 

What advice would you give to those just entering school or trying to determine their specialty or field of interest?
Think big: What did you like as a child and what do you wish you could do if your wildest dreams came true? Then, work hard to get there and use all the opportunities given to you.