Westmont Magazine An Infectious Passion for Healing Diseases
Laura Selby ’11 discovered a new passion for public health and a deep compassion for others during a spring break trip with Urban Initiative. This ministry strives to develop a Christ-centered response to urban issues through a week-long immersion in a city. Laura served as the travel coordinator during her senior year, organizing outreach trips to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. These experiences opened her eyes to the intersection of public health and the realities of homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, educational disparities and racism. Her work with Urban Initiative significantly influenced her career path as a fellow in the infectious disease program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Diseases often stem from complex, urban issues, and her time with Urban Initiative deepened her understanding of her patients’ diverse backgrounds and helps her engage them with compassion and empathy. '
An Oregon native, Laura originally wanted to leave the West Coast for college. After consenting to tour Westmont, she fell in love with the personal environment and intentional community reflected through chapel, faculty and other students. A chemistry major, Laura spent two summers gaining valuable experience by conducting research with the chemistry department. Her philosophy class fostered her deep interest in bioethics. She finds the intersection of philosophy and biology fascinating and expects to finish a master’s degree in bioethics through Albany Medical College in 2021.
Laura graduated from Westmont in just three years and finished her medical school training at the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Oregon in 2017. She then completed her residency in internal medicine with Samaritan Health Services in Oregon.
In July 2020, Laura began an Infectious Disease Fellowship with the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the midst of a pandemic. A subset of internal medicine, infectious diseases focuses on patients with complex infections. Laura takes time to talk to her patients and learn about their backgrounds and histories, which helps her understand the type of infections they may contract. Although she rarely has the opportunity to speak with her patients about her Christian faith, Laura prays consistently for each patient and their unique situation. After completing the two-year fellowship, Laura will become a board-certified infectious diseases physician. She loves teaching medical students and residents and hopes to secure a position in academic medicine that allows her to practice, research and teach.
In the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Nebraska, Laura shares her experience with this contagious disease. “I’ve treated many patients with COVID, and it can be heartbreaking and difficult sometimes,” she says. “Many people who are hospitalized recover and do well, but others sadly pass away, and that is always hard. We have limited treatments for viral illnesses and mostly just provide supportive care. As physicians, we often find ourselves with limited options for treating this life-threatening illness.
“Being in training during a pandemic has taught me many things, such as the importance of public health and health literacy in our society. While many of the experiences of COVID-19 have been negative, watching the international infectious diseases profession come together to share research and support their fellow physicians has been a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy year.”
Laura suggests that Westmont students respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with compassion. “Please show compassion for each other as the stress of the pandemic has been difficult for many people this year,” she says. “Also find compassion for your neighbor by wearing masks and following public health guidelines to protect those at high risk of COVID complications—even if you personally aren’t at high risk or believe you have already had the disease. And please keep those who work on the front line of the pandemic in your prayers. We so greatly appreciate them.”
Laura enjoys medical research and pursues her interest in issues related to biosecurity and biocontainment issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and other highly contagious diseases. Ultimately, she desires to use her passion for medicine, research and teaching to develop greater understanding behind complex medical issues and bring healing and compassion to every patient she encounters.