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May 28, 2002

Shane integrates academics, sports

By India Stanley

When asked if he was surprised to hear he would receive this year’s Marion Luther Brittain Service Award at Commencement, Woodruff Scholar and Emory College senior Tom Shane smiled. “Absolutely,” he said. “To be honest, I had never heard of the award before, so I had to ask, ‘What does that mean?’”

This seems the perfect response to receiving an award, established in 1942 through a bequest from Emory alumnus M. L. Brittain, that is given for service performed without expectation of recognition or reward.

A pre-med major in neuroscience and behavioral biology, Shane gained field experience in both internal and emergency medicine through Emory’s house staff assistant program. While working with retinal surgeon Daniel Martin, Shane spent two years researching the probability of a bacterial infection resulting from the surgical insertion of an eye implant designed by Martin to prevent blindness in AIDS patients with cytomegalovirus retinitis, an illness that causes the death of cells in the retinas. Winning highest honors at Emory for his thesis, Shane presented the paper to the American Academy of Ophthalmology before submitting it to the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

“Doctors will be able to inform their patients before the surgery that the risk of infection is not that high,” Shane said about the implications of his soon-to-be-published work. “And they’ll have a better idea of how to treat their patients if they develop the infection.”

A nine-time All-American in swimming, Shane shares his enthusiasm for his sport with the community. A co-captain of Emory’s men’s swim team, he organizes recruiting, volunteering and recreational activities. Shane created a private swimming lesson program during his sophomore year, matching his teammates with children and adults who need instruction.

Every summer, Shane coaches the Druid Hills Golf Club swim team for children ages 5 through 14. He said he enjoys being part of their development and acting as a role model.

“It’s always my goal to lead by example,” Shane said. “I try to impart upon [children] the values that go along with swimming like delayed gratification, setting goals and working to achieve them, and working together as a team.”

During his “free time” at Emory, Shane tutored students, served on a University Senate committee on drugs and alcohol, coached for the Special Olympics, ran a blood drive, and traveled to Korea with Habitat for Humanity. Shane also tries to integrate volunteer opportunities into his paid positions by, for example, teaching a 12-year-old boy how to instruct while giving swimming lessons.

Shane, who will attend medical school in the fall, said he plans to continue volunteering. “That’s the attitude doctors have,” he said. “It’s a whole environment of volunteering.”