As a medical student, Regan Robinson Young encouraged newly diagnosed cancer patients she met during her rotations not to let the disease take over their lives. She spoke from experience, having been diagnosed with colon cancer during the fall of her second year of medical school. When she was diagnosed, her oncologist told her that the prognosis wasn’t good – the disease was in its most advanced stages, and she had only a short time to live. “I started crying,” Regan said. “My mom said. ‘That’s your report, but we’re going to take God’s report.” That second opinion worked well for Regan. She underwent surgery in December 2003, was discharged on Christmas Day, and immediately jumped back into medical school. “I went back to school almost as if nothing had happened. Once I started chemo, it proved to me that chemo and medical school were no match for each other,” Regan said. “So I had to take a leave of absence, which was hard for me because it was probably the first time in my life that I didn’t have control of what was going on.”
After a year’s hiatus, Regan returned to medical school in the fall of 2004 and started studying for the first part of her board exams. She passed and continued school, all while undergoing chemotherapy after tests indicated cancer remained. In her third year, Regan maintained a schedule considered grueling by any standards, but especially for a person receiving exhaustive chemotherapy treatments. She woke up at 3:45 and arrived at the hospital to start seeing patients by 5 am. After lunch break, she returned to check on them again to round out her 12-hour day, and that was before studying. “I find that school keeps me busy. It keeps my mind occupied and it doesn’t really give me a lot of time to think about what’s going on,” Regan said.
To her, being a physician meant combining science and faith. “I think a lot of times in medicine, people believe so much in science and what’s in the books that they forget about the miracles,” Regan said. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I believe more in miracles.”
Regan passed away on January 18, 2007. She was 26. She was just months short of graduation. “She had the option of taking a leave to go and do something fun or whatever she wanted to do with her life, but she chose medical school,” Dr. Hattie Myles, former assistant dean for student affairs, said. “Her verbatim statement was ‘I’m doing what I want to do.’” Young was so dedicated to school and the medical profession that some didn’t know about her illness. “She was very real to all of us,” fellow student Sarah Styers said. “I told people about her, and they had worked with her and they had no idea she was sick.” Those who were most likely to learn that Regan had cancer were other cancer patients. She often used her own experiences to help other cancer patients cope. While Regan’s quiet demeanor led her to downplay her illness among her peers, she still became an inspiration for many of the faculty and staff at USA, said Myles and Dr. Maggi O’Brien, former associate dean of students at the College of Medicine. “The big Regan story is her spirit. She was a fairly quiet young woman with a great poise, but she had the sweetest, most empathetic spirit,” O’Brien said. “She was a good reality check for a lot of students.” Regan’s family was awarded her medical degree posthumously at her graduation.
In honor and memory of Regan, her fellow classmates established a scholarship fund just a few days after her death. “To say the least, she would have made a brilliant family medicine physician because she embodied everything that a physician should be,” fellow student Chenita Landry said. “Regan was the epitome of academic excellence, and I think she touched the lives of many, many people, and I think she taught us all about loving life.” Regan is survived by her husband, Kendall Young, parents Reginald and Cheryl Robinson, a brother and a sister.
Donations to the scholarship fund can be directed to the University of South Alabama Office of Medical Development, attention Gumbo Chili Showdown USA College of Medicine, 5851 USA Drive North, MSB 2015, Mobile, AL 36688.
The College of Medicine wanted to have something that all four years could participate in and bring the four years closer together. That is how the Gumbo/Chili Showdown was born. We wanted the proceeds of this fundraiser to go towards something that was close to our hearts and nothing could be closer than one of our own classmates passing away in medical school from colon cancer. We have dedicated the Gumbo/Chili Showdown to Regan Robinson Young and all proceeds go to her scholarship fund.
© 2017 USA Health System