Ashley Dunbar ’10 Earns New Medical Scholarship

Medical student Ashley Dunbar ’10 has been on a long road to medicine, a path that recently made her the inaugural recipient of a $30K scholarship from the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation.

More on that later.

Dunbar was an ice hockey standout under Lawrenceville head coach Nicole Uliasz, captain of the Big Red team her senior year, four-time All-State selection, member of the USA Hockey National Development Program, winner of Lawrenceville’s Melissa Magee Best Female Athlete award – the list goes on and on. At the same time, Dunbar was a top student, her abiding interest in science competing with a growing passion for history and literature, ignited by teachers like Miranda Christoffersen P’14 ’18 in English and History Masters Cara Hyson P’14 ’16 and Mike Hanewald ’90 P’22.

“When I got to Yale, I gravitated to a major where I could think critically while pursuing my interests in science and medicine,” says Dunbar. “I took pre-med classes, but I majored in the history of science, history of medicine because I wanted to take advantage of Yale’s great liberal arts tradition. I wanted to extend the experience I had at Lawrenceville.”

She also played ice hockey for the Yale Bulldogs.

When her undergraduate athletic career was sidelined by an injury in her senior year, Dunbar collaborated with the team doctor to form a support group for Yale athletes who had also suffered head injuries. It was through this adversity that her resolve to pursue a career in medicine was solidified. Following graduation, she worked as a research associate at the Yale School of Medicine with a focus on neurological disorders.

Dunbar’s history-oriented major had limited the number of pre-med courses she could take, so after a year of research, she enrolled in a one-year post-baccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania to complete the additional science courses she needed for medical school.

While applying to medical school, Dunbar stayed at UPenn for a year as a Harrison Surgical Scholar, working with thoracic surgeon and fellow Lawrentian Sunil Singhal ’90. Singhal has been involved in a groundbreaking research collaboration with Lawrenceville classmate, John Y.K. Lee ’90, an associate professor of neurosurgery. Lee has become a mentor to Dunbar, who is now attending medical school at Quinnipiac University’s Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine.

“The first two years of medical school are spent learning in the classroom,” explains Dunbar, “and during years three and four we’re on the wards rotating among six or seven medical specialties at hospitals and medical offices.” Now in her third year, she is on rotation six days a week, working as a research assistant in neurosurgery and genetics at the Yale School of Medicine and studying for exams in between.

But back to the scholarship. The Reagan Sloane Shanley Scholarship is named for Reagan Shanley, age 6, who was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at nine months old and had two brain surgeries in the next nine months. The experience inspired Reagan’s family and friends to establish the scholarship in coordination with the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation. Dunbar is the first recipient, recognized for her research in hydrocephalus and dedication to service on behalf of pediatric patients with neurological conditions. The Shanley family said Dunbar was “the obvious choice.”

Dunbar is on the path to a likely career in neurosurgery, and her efforts have brought her an unusual level of recognition for a third-year medical student. We can’t wait to see where that road will take her next.

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