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Vol. LXIII, No. 9
April 29, 2011
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Once Homeless, NIEHS Fellow Pursues Medical School Dream

NIEHS research fellow Quiana Childress is studying a protein that may play a role in the tissue rejection that some lung transplant patients face.

NIEHS research fellow Quiana Childress is studying a protein that may play a role in the tissue rejection that some lung transplant patients face.

Photo: Steve McCaw

Quiana Childress, a young NIEHS research fellow, has gone from being homeless in rural Arkansas to following her dream of becoming a doctor. Her life is proof that anything is possible if you never give up.

Childress said that she grew up in the Arkansas Delta. Her family didn’t have much money, so she worked as a certified nursing assistant while attending high school. When her home life became unstable and she wound up living in her car, she focused on two things that made her happy—school work and playing varsity basketball.

“Sometimes, I had to wake up at 3 a.m. to study,” Childress explained. “I didn’t mind the long hours because I loved serving as team captain and getting good grades in school. These were circumstances I could control.”

Knowing that she would have a hard time paying for college, even with scholarships, Childress completed a 1-year licensed practical nursing program after finishing high school. After receiving her LPN, she entered the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff (UAPB) as a biology major. She utilized her nurse’s training by working in the infirmary at a nearby all-male maximum security prison, where she became an inspiration to the inmates.

Childress said of the experience, “Some of the guys came up to me and said, ‘You inspire us. We didn’t all quite have it that bad and we took different routes. You didn’t.’”

For most people, college and work would be a big enough challenge, but Childress said she also volunteered for several organizations and took advantage of research opportunities. All of her hard work paid off in 2010, when Childress graduated from UAPB summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology. UAPB commencement speaker First Lady Michelle Obama singled her out at the graduation ceremony as an example of triumph over adversity.

At NIEHS, Childress is studying a protein that may play a role in the tissue rejection that some lung transplant patients face. She is applying to medical school and is anxiously awaiting acceptance.

“Regardless of how it turns out,” she said, “I want people to know that seemingly impossible situations can be overcome with prayer, perseverance and helping others.”—Matt Goad NIHRecord Icon


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