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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Theressa J. Wright

Senior Medical Director for Early Phase Medicine, Eli Lilly and Co.
Franklin College (IN), Class of 1972
Theressa J. Wright, MD, joined Eli Lilly and Co. in 1995 and currently is the senior medical director for Early Phase Medicine, Global Patient Safety and is co-chairperson of the Cardiovascular Safety Advisory Committee.

Wright’s contributions to science, education, and community includes her past and current affiliation with several professional, scientific, educational, and community organizations such as the Association of Black Cardiologists; American Heart Association; American College of Cardiology; National Medical Association; Cardiovascular Safety Research Consortium; Area Health Education Center-Diversity and Advisory Committees; Indiana University School of Medicine Admission and Scholarship Committees; Franklin College Alumni Council; Franklin College Board of Trustees; and the Medicaid Subcommittee of the Indiana Government Efficiency Commission. With a sincere interest in enhancing education in urban underserved communities, in 2003 she became a co-founder, chairperson, and vice chairperson of two K–8 charter schools in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Wright has received numerous honors and awards including induction into the Indiana Academy (Independent Colleges of Indiana) in 2005 and the National Register’s Who’s Who in Executive and Professionals. In 2008, Franklin College presented Wright with an Alumni Lifetime Achievement Citation in recognition of her civic and professional accomplishments. She is active in her local church and several other Christian ministries.

Dr. Wright holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Franklin College, a master’s degree in chemistry from Butler University, and a medical degree from Indiana University. She completed a fellowship in cardiology at the University of Iowa. Before becoming a physician, Wright was a medical technologist for both Methodist and St. Francis hospitals as well as a research chemist for Boehringer Mannheim Diagnostics (now Roche).
The liberal arts education and residential campus life I experienced at Franklin College, along with the application of strong Christian principles, empowered, prepared, and transformed me into a “lifelong learner” actively using critical-thinking and problem-solving skills; exploring diverse concepts, thoughts, and ideas on varied topics; and appreciating the importance of discipline in behavior, integrity in action, and respect for all. The active learning, inter- and intra-personal communication skills and leadership obtained from my extra-curricular college experiences prepared me for many roles and responsibilities that are invaluable in both my personal and professional life.
 

My liberal arts education from Franklin College paved the way for me to sustain and ultimately become a physician and travel the world as a contributor to the global medical community.

 
I am the oldest of seven children and the first one to graduate from college. I was raised by a strong, single mother along with an equally insightful grandfather. Neither had attended school above the 10th grade, but they repeatedly proclaimed and reinforced the importance of education for a solid foundation and infrastructure that could “never be taken away.” Although we lived on welfare in the inner city, I was taught how to survive and use every experience and learning opportunity as God’s blessing. 
 
Since a child, I wanted to become a doctor, but many were not supportive. Repeatedly, I heard, “You are black, poor, and a girl. Being a doctor doesn’t happen to people like you.” But a supportive mother, grandfather, and the Franklin College “family” kept me centered and repeatedly reminded me of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me.” And Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths.” The guidance and support that was given to me, I now give to many students, patients, colleagues, families, and friends I mentor, coach, or counsel.
 
After college, it was 11 years before I could start medical school. But a well-rounded liberal arts education prepared and enabled me to quickly adapt and transition to other career options. Initially, I trained and became a medical technologist and subsequently a research chemist. When I was able go to medical school, these previous careers helped me to succeed. I advanced into an internal medicine residency, a cardiology fellowship, and finally employment as a clinical research physician for a large global pharmaceutical company. In short, my liberal arts education from Franklin College paved the way for me to sustain and ultimately become a physician and travel the world as a contributor to the global medical community…a far cry from the “poor black girl from the inner city.”
 
In conclusion, for empowerment and better preparation for this ever-changing world, all parents, guardians, school counselors, and mentors need to encourage students to choose a liberal arts education.
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