Published: Nov. 12, 2020 By

A mutual desire to serve their communities prompted the creation of a CU Boulder initiative for United Network for Organ Sharing

Despite having different backgrounds—one from a family of physicians, the other with small-town doctors taking a chance on her—a desire to serve their communities led seniors Paige Beckman and Phillip Goldman to major in integrative physiology. 

“You have to care enough about what you’re doing to sustain your passion throughout your life,” Goldman said.

I like medicine, because every time I’ve shadowed a physician, I’ve been exposed to life that is unfiltered."

It also led Beckman and Goldman to found a student organization called UNOS Ambassadors at CU. The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the non-profit organization that administers the only organ procurement and transplantation network in the United States.

UNOS ambassadors are registered UNOS volunteers who advocate for UNOS, organ donation and donor registration within their communities. Beckman and Goldman became UNOS ambassadors earlier in 2020 and have since recruited other UNOS ambassadors in the CU Boulder community. This interest in the ambassadors program led to development of UNOS Ambassadors at CU, an organization in which UNOS Ambassadors in the Boulder community combine efforts to advocate for organ donation.

“UNOS is the best organ procurement and transplantation network in the world; despite this, 8,000 to 10,000 people still die every year waiting for a lifesaving organ,” Beckman said. “Phil and I are passionate about this because we learned that while 90% of U.S. adults support organ donation, only about 50% are actually registered organ donors.”

For these two students, though, volunteering for UNOS is only the beginning.

Prehealth students shadowing

Photo of Paige Beckman (right) and her friend Madison Watt, pre-med, former CU student; shadowing Dr. Hartman, an orthopedic surgeon from The Orthopedic and Spine Center of the Rockies. 

Shadowing small-town dentists and surgeons

For Paige Beckman, a Boettcher Scholarship recipient, the path toward becoming a physician has never been straight. 

Beckman grew up on a cattle ranch in the northeast corner of Colorado, 30 miles from the nearest grocery store, before moving to Wray. 

As she considered what she wanted to do after high school, a pivotal experience in her senior year opened the door to a potential career. 

“I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I thought the experience was really interesting,” she said. “That’s when I became interested in dentistry. I’m from a tight-knit community, so my dentist gave me the opportunity to shadow her practice and work as a dental assistant of sorts. When I came to CU, I was pre-dental for a while.”

When physicians in her hometown also encouraged her to shadow them and observe several surgeries, she began thinking seriously about the integrative physiology (pre-health) track. 

These experiences with health care have allowed her to witness highs and lows of life, from being present at a birth to the physical decline of an HIV patient.  

“I like medicine, because every time I’ve shadowed a physician, I’ve been exposed to life that is unfiltered,” she said. “It’s a unique opportunity to be with people in their vulnerable states and to develop trust with them. These experiences really resonated with me and piqued my interests in the medical field.”

Rather than go directly to medical school after graduating from CU Boulder, she plans to take two gap years. Outside of medicine, she is passionate about serving the communities she lives in and is interested in fellowships at nonprofits that serve the Colorado community. She hopes to develop personal and leadership development skills that will help her to serve others in any occupation or community in which she finds herself.

Phillip Goldman

Phillip Goldman

A ‘passion for health and fitness’

Growing up in Houston, Texas, surrounded by several family members who are physicians, Phillip Goldman has been exposed to medicine throughout his life. His mother, a neurologist who works both in the United States and Slovakia, showed Goldman how health care can be applied in diverse ways. 

Another major factor of his interest in medicine has been competing in cross country and track and seeking to live a healthful lifestyle.

“I began looking at what I could do,” Goldman said. “With a heavy exposure to medicine, I immediately knew this was a way to apply my passion for health and fitness. When I toured CU, I immediately knew this was where I wanted to go to be an integrative physiology major.”

Goldman is taking a gap year in California to work as a technician in a psychiatric clinic conducting transcranial magnetic stimulation, a noninvasive procedure to treat depression. At the end of the gap year, he plans to go to medical school, but is undecided about a medical specialty.  

In the meantime, he wants to continue working on the UNOS organization that he and Beckman are developing at CU Boulder. 

“I agree with Paige that being with people through their difficult times and seeing the reality for what it truly is gives you great perspective when you’re treating patients with potentially life-threatening conditions,” Goldman said. 

“If you’re not passionate about it, then there’s really not a place for you in a field like this. The main driver for me has always been impact. What kind of impact can I make? Can I make a meaningful contribution in this realm I’ve been interested in my entire life? I want to be in position where I can say yes to that, where I can make serious changes in the world.”