Ava Ferguson

Ava Ferguson

Hometown: Dallas, TX
Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Pritzker Activities: My favorite extracurriculars have been serving as Ultmann Fund Chair, TA-ing anatomy & health care disparities, Physicians for a National Healthcare Program, and heaps of event planning (Pritzker formal, MS1 talent show and class parties, Revisit).
Pre-Pritzker: I had four years in between college and Pritzker. For one of them I was a graduate student in the humanities here at UChicago, then I returned to Austin for two years to complete my pre-med requirements before moving to Los Angeles to work in the development & fundraising department of Planned Parenthood LA for a year before starting medical school.
S&D Track: Scientific Investigation: Social Sciences
S&D Mentor & Project: Julie Chor, MD, MPH, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. My project, which I'm taking a research year to work on, is a qualitative investigation of how young women's experience of their first pelvic exam shapes their engagement in future preventative healthcare.


Tell us about your research experience(s) at UChicago.

My driving research interest has been better understanding patient experience to improve public health outcomes.  To that end, the summer between M1 and M2 years I received a fellowship through the Institute of Politics to work at the Chicago Department of Public Health expanding a community health worker-centered heart health program to the south side of Chicago.  During my second year, I worked on a data analysis project looking at medication use and olfactory loss as a marker for overall decline among a large cohort older adults. For the past year, I've worked on a qualitative project investigating how young women's experiences with their first pelvic exam influences their future engagement in preventative healthcare; with funding from the Institute for Translational Medicine and AOA, I am taking this year to more fully investigate this research question and shore up my qualitative research skills by taking courses at the University. Finally, I am about to begin work on a project analyzing quality of life among patients who have been treated for thyroid cancer, beginning with an examination of the differences in quality of life between groups of younger and older women who have undergone thyroid surgery.

What do you think about diversity & inclusion on campus? Is Pritzker a welcoming place?

Pritzker, in my experience, values diversity in a definition expanded to include not only different previous life experiences but also different habits of mind and personal character strengths. The most telling quality of Pritzker's value on diversity and inclusion is the openness with which grievances are aired when they occur, and the respectful, empathetic, and analytic way in which people respond to one another and examine their own behavior and habits around these issues.

How would you describe your classmates?

They are, quite simply, my family. They are brilliant and hardworking and talented, all of the things one would expect from medical students, but much more than that their character is defined by the strong sense of civic responsibility that runs through and propels my class. The best way I have of describing them is they are the people who do the right thing even when it disadvantages or inconveniences them, the people who would stop to help an injured competitor during a race without second thought to their own finish time.  They take seriously the heady charge of medicine to minister to people during their most vulnerable and sacred moments. They are good men in a storm.

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago or the best thing about living in Chicago?

This is a city built for curious people who love beauty and adventure. There is a secret history of politics and architecture hidden all around us and a multitude of ways to go about learning and uncovering it. There is also (almost) no such thing as a bad meal in Chicago, and with some free time and a train ticket you can find a different, breathtaking experience to have each time you find yourself with a free afternoon or evening. Some favorites to start: the free outdoor concerts at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, walking tours downtown via the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio tour in Oak Park, Garfield Park Conservatory, Lula Cafe in Logan Square, Calumet Fisheries to the south just over the Indiana border.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am a year-round outdoor runner and hiker, an avid dinner party hostess, and a photographer. I love film, poetry, and good longform journalism. I spend as much time with my friends as possible, preferably with food and wine near water. My beloved non-Pritzker family lives in San Francisco and Texas, and I exorcise my wanderlust by visiting them as much as possible.