Amazing Students

Sam Huffman

Sam Huffman in the Science Library. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Sam Huffman is passionate about serving others as well as Spanish language and culture, and he plans to combine those as a bilingual physician who can make an impact for all patients seeking to gain informed access to health care.


Fairway, Kansas

High school:

Shawnee Mission East High School

Current employment: 

At the start of this semester, I became a tutor at Rankin M. Smith Sr. Student Athlete Academic Center. Here, I work one-on-one with multiple student-athletes to tutor them in science courses, such as chemistry and biology. I was drawn to this position for the opportunity to aid athletes in their development of study skills and help them recognize their confidence can also be applied to the realm of academics. Additionally, the weekly sessions help me improve my ability to listen to the students’ concerns and issues in their educational growth in order to effectively communicate strategies to help them improve.

Family ties to UGA: 

Even though I am the first in my immediate family to attend UGA, my extended family has always had a heart for the Dawgs. My uncle Jeff grew up rooting for the Dawgs since his father attended UGA in the 1960s and he has spread this passion to all of us around him. On my mother’s side of the family, my cousin and I both decided to come to UGA back in the fall of 2014, followed by my sister Ally this year!

Expected graduation: 

Spring 2019

Degree objective: 

B.S. in biology

Other degrees: 

Minor in Spanish

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

It is important for me to begin by mentioning that none of my accomplishments and highlights could have been made without the persistent support of my family, friends, mentors and professors. Much of what I have been able to do at the University of Georgia is a reflection of their support. In their absence, I would not be the student or person I am today.

As a student who is from out of state, I was drawn by the opportunities to become involved on campus. I have been involved with UGA Miracle in a variety of leadership roles, since my freshman year. If these past three years as a member of UGA Miracle have shown me anything, it is that when a group of driven, selfless individuals come together with a common goal and passion, they find a way to exceed all expectations. In my first year in UGA Miracle, I experienced a more financial side to the organization through the Fundraising Committee. The following year, I joined the leadership team as an assistant chair for the Hospital Relations Committee where I was able see the outreach of our organization as I visited the children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. For the past two years I have served on the Executive Board as the Events Committee co-chair. This committee is tasked with planning all of the events throughout the year for UGA Miracle including the Dance Marathon.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this role is being able to see that hard work of many individuals over the course of the year come to fruition during Dance Marathon. For many students, this event is what solidifies their love for the organization. Knowing this continually drives me, and others, to put as much energy into the production of Dance Marathon as we can give. There are numerous hours of behind the scene work, diligent effort from a team of students, and multiple brainstorms in order to make Dance Marathon the event it is. As my final year in the organization nears, my goal is to continue providing ways for younger members to connect with families and the Children’s hospital. What I hope the next class of leaders recognizes is the significant, positive difference that can be made through smaller interactions with UGA Miracle children and families we support. The interpersonal relationships built through experiences such as celebrations of birthdays or small victories in the hospital are just as essential as the funds we raise.

During my time at UGA, I have also been able to travel abroad through the UGA en España Program. The summer after my sophomore year, I studied abroad in Cádiz, Spain, for seven weeks. While living with a Spanish host family, I completed courses in Spanish culture and linguistics, in addition to assisting in a tutoring program at a primary school. Each day abroad I developed a deeper understanding that my goal to gain fluency was second to the insight that a mutual understanding of cultures is the key to communication. This program provided me abundant opportunity to immerse myself in another culture and grow as an individual. For the remaining portion of the summer, I volunteered in the interpretive services department of a hospital in Kansas City, where I was responsible for managing phone calls with Spanish speaking patients or dispatching translators throughout the campus. Currently, I volunteer at OASIS Católico Santa Rafaela, which is an after-school program in an Athens Latino community. Here, English and Spanish culture intertwines to enrich one another.

Spring semester of my junior year, I was fortunate to take part in biomedical undergraduate research under supervision of professor Randy Hammond. In the preliminary research project, I investigated the relationship between neural function and macular pigment optical density in the retina of young, healthy adults. I decided to join a study with Dr. Hammond to develop a better understanding of the research process. This hands-on experience fueled my desire to learn beyond a classroom setting. Throughout the semester, I attained a better insight about data collection strategies to gather accurate information. Additionally, I was compelled by the evolution of Dr. Hammond’s research on macular degeneration and its applicability on preventive care in medicine.

Additionally, throughout college I have been a member of Alpha Tau Omega where I have held various leadership positions on the Executive Board. I am grateful for the friends I have made through the organization and experiences we have shared.

It has been my goal throughout college to attend medical school in order to one day become a bilingual physician. These experiences here at UGA independently each hold value, but the accumulation of these insightful experiences have shaped my future. I will forever be indebted to this university and those who have helped me move closer toward my dream.

I chose to attend UGA because … 

I knew it was a special place from my first visit. When I was in my senior year of high school, I had no idea of where I wanted to go college. So, I decided to apply to multiple universities all over the country, hoping that one of them would be a perfect fit. After a couple months of narrowing down options, my choices were between UGA and two other schools. At this point, I felt as if I hit a wall in my decision process.

In comes my Uncle Jeff from Atlanta, who could be known as a “Dawg Whisperer” for his ability to recruit members of my family to attend UGA, especially those of us from Kansas. He was fired up that the possibility of me moving to Athens was real, so he started working his magic. From subtle hints to direct assertions that I need to come to Georgia, he pulled all possible strings to persuade me.

With only one month left of high school before I had to officially decide where I would be attending, I planned a trip to visit UGA and tour the school. It did not take long after stepping foot on campus for me to be certain I would be spending the next four years of my life in Athens. The countless educational and personal opportunities for students to grow, the campus’s beauty, the diverse culture of the student population, you name it, the list of compelling reasons is endless. The community of students is what solidified my desire to attend UGA. On the tour, seeing other students seemingly blissful to be walking through campus, and then also having students walk up to our tour unannounced just to welcome us, made me realize UGA was special.

My favorite things to do on campus are … 

… to grab lunch with friends wherever possible! For someone who lives by the commuter meal plan, it makes it very simple to reach out to someone I haven’t seen in a while to catch up and get a bite to eat. On another note, when I am walking through campus, I like finding new niches that I haven’t seen before to take a moment and regroup. Even today, I still am finding new parts of campus.

When I have free time, I like … 

I enjoy staying busy and having an active schedule. In moments of free time, however, I like to spend it with others. Whether we head to the Georgia Theatre to see a concert, try out restaurants around the Athens area, or catch a movie at one of the numerous theaters, at the end of the day I enjoy being with people.

The craziest thing I’ve done is … 

One of the craziest things I’ve done is ride a camel on the beaches of Morocco, and to my surprise they moved a lot faster than expected. On my study abroad in Cádiz, we were given free weekends to travel on our own. Since Cádiz is located so close to the Strait of Gibraltar, it was relatively easy to travel to Morocco. A group of friends in my study abroad program and I planned a trip where we were able to explore city markets, experience new food, ride a camel or two, and travel to cities like the ancient city of Chefchaouen. The mountainside city nicknamed The Blue Pearl is known for its buildings covered in shades of blue. Since there is no airport, the only way to travel to the city was by a scenic road trip through the northern hills of Morocco. As we viewed the city from afar, it looked as though someone took a blue paintbrush to the side of the mountain. Once we arrived in the city we were led by a local tour guide, who provided a unique perspective to the history and culture of the city. I found myself in pure amazement at its beauty as we walked through the blue-rinsed streets. Even though words and pictures will not do it justice, I recommend taking a couple minutes to view photos online.

My favorite place to study is … 

… always changing! Freshman year I spent a majority of my time either in the MLC or the Creswell study lounges mostly because they were convenient. Sophomore year rolled around and that’s about when the Science Library and I became close friends, thanks to O-Chem. Junior year I started spending more and more time studying isolated at my desk in my room or in a cubicle on the third floor of the Science library. This was when I realized I needed to mix it up and try out new spots. From Jittery Joe’s at Five Points, the Greek Life Office of Tate, the corner table upstairs of Starbucks downtown, the Main Library or BLC, I found myself exploring new locations ending junior year and throughout senior year. As a side note, those last two spots may not be that crazy, but for a science major that spends a lot of time on South Campus it’s a change.

My favorite professors are … 

… Karl Espelie and Randy Hammond.

I was introduced to Dr. Espelie during my sophomore year and without Dr. Espelie’s guidance, I would not be at this point in my educational career that I am today. In what has felt like a fast three years, he has provided me with more support and encouragement than I can imagine. Outside of providing direction through my pre-medical track, he has been a continued supporter of my involvement in UGA Miracle. His endless devotion and desire to see his students succeed has helped so many others as well as myself.

During my first lecture in Dr. Hammond’s “Biological Health Psychology” course, I knew it would be my most interesting and enjoyable class. His knowledge and passion for the subject was vividly clear through his lectures, stories and devotion to behavioral and brain science research throughout his career. After the semester in his class completed, I joined one of his research projects where he has been valuable in my comprehension of research protocol and improvement of critical thinking skills. Additionally, I am grateful for his advice throughout my medical school application process where his support was truly appreciated.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with … 

… Trevor Noah, an award-winning comedian, actor, radio host and writer from South Africa. I am inspired by his autobiography, “Born a Crime,” which details his experiences growing up as a mixed-race boy in post-apartheid Johannesburg, South Africa. One piece of his life that I found particularly moving was the way in which he used his ability to speak multiple languages in order to connect with people of different cultures. This connection through language is what I hope to use in my future as I seek to become a bilingual physician.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to … 

My summer in Spain left me desiring to explore other cities and countries, so without question, I would travel. I have always been fascinated to learn more from people, which traveling uniquely provides. I am grateful that my study abroad afforded these opportunities to experience cities across southern Spain and gain a cultural perspective from locals.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it? 

I am thoroughly passionate about serving others, as well as Spanish language and culture. Through my continued involvement in UGA Miracle, OASIS and future endeavors I will gain valuable experience that I will take with me beyond medical school. I hope that one day I can make an impact for all patients seeking to gain informed access to health care.

After graduation, I plan to … 

Next year, I will be attending Georgetown University School of Medicine to pursue an M.D. Beyond this, my hope is to be certified as a bilingual physician in order to minimize language and cultural barriers for non-English speaking patients. I believe as the population becomes more diverse, it will be increasingly important for physicians to have a comprehensive understanding of others’ language, culture and perspective.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be … 

As memorable as many of the experiences that I’ve shared with others at UGA, the most memorable will always be going to the 2018 Rose Bowl game against Oklahoma with my closest friends. You really couldn’t script a more classic game than Georgia coming back in a shoot-out to go to the National Championship. I will never forget that emphatic rush of energy and excitement that burst out of the Georgia half of the stadium when Sony Michel turned the corner on his run and had nothing but end zone in front of him. Being able to share that memory with friends truly made it an experience I won’t forget.