Hanghang Wang, DMS'11:
Learning Her Own Way

The story of Hanghang Wang’s journey to DMS begins in the small Chinese city of Yangzhou, where she grew up. “I always wanted to go to different countries and study their languages and culture,” she explains. So at age 11, Hanghang set out to teach herself English.

“Nobody in my family speaks English, so I taught myself,” says Hanghang in her nearly flawless American English. “I listened to tons of tapes and CD’s, and sometimes I watched American movies. My Mom would tape the TV screen so I wouldn’t be able to see the subtitles and I would have to listen and try to figure out what was going on. By the end of middle school I was fluent. I was exempt from all the classes in English in high school.”

That self-directed approach is how Hanghang learns best. “I’m really not a lecture person – I learn much better by one on one interactions and in small groups and by immersing myself in the subject,” she explains. As a result, Hanghang has a knack for seeking out mentors and making connections wherever she goes.

Coming to Grinnell College in Iowa on a full scholarship at the age of 18, “I had lots of mentorship. That’s what I really loved when I was at Grinnell,” she says of her undergraduate experience. Among those mentors was Dr. Ken Christiansen, in whose lab Hanghang worked throughout her four years at Grinnell. Through that connection she did a summer internship in human genetics with Dr. Anne Spence at UC Irvine, which in turn led to an opportunity to work in genetics research at Max Planck Institute in Berlin during the spring semester in Germany in her junior year.

Arriving at Dartmouth in August of 2007, Hanghang soon found new mentors. “DMS is small and we’re a very close community,” she says. “The professors are really nice, and very accessible. That’s my favorite part about being here.”

Despite the demands of the medical school curriculum, she has made time every week to spend a half day studying pathology with Dr. Vince Memoli, several afternoons in the lab of Dr. Ebo deMuinck assisting with his research on angiogenesis, and two mornings with Dr. William Nugent in cardiothoracic surgery. “Dr. Nugent has adopted me as his surrogate daughter,” she laughs.

Hanghang has also reached out to DMS alumni. She was one of the first to sign up for the Alumni Relations Office’s Student Ambassadors Program when it launched last year. This group of DMS students volunteers to assist at reunions and other alumni gatherings and with fundraising and thank you calls for the Fund for DMS. “I really enjoyed the alumni connection when I was at Grinnell, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to get to know DMS alumni,” she says. Indeed, through the Student Ambassador Program, Hanghang made connections with DMS alumni at Mass General, where she did an internship in the cardiothoracic surgery department last summer.

Whether Hanghang eventually goes into clinical work or medical research, returns to China or stays in the US, remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: she won’t forget the people and places who have supported her in realizing her dreams.

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