Professor Praises South African Student For Excellence In Biology - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Professor Praises South African Student For Excellence In Biology

"I always have believed that every person on Earth owes it to mankind to explore their full potential. You know, you're given the gift of life. And I honestly and truly believe that you have to be the very best that you can be," Chene Smith said.

Chene has always been the best she can be. And she's using her talents to give others a better quality of life.

She spent her two years at UT-Tyler studying biology and doing research in genetic disorders, using a grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

"I could watch her work in the laboratory and I could tell that she was very quick to pick up on techniques," Dr. Don Killebrew, professor and chair of UT-Tyler's biology department, said. "Being goal-oriented, being friendly, having an outgoing personality, having the desire to want to learn."

Chene posted a 4.0 GPA at UT-Tyler and at TJC before that, where she made USA Today's All-USA Junior College Academic Team, placing her among the top students in the nation. All this, after graduating as high school valedictorian from All Saints Episcopal School.

Now 22 years old, Chene came to Tyler from Pretoria, South Africa when she was 13. She brought with her the dream of becoming a doctor.

"My first biological mom, she died of cancer when I was four years old, so that's one motivating factor," Chene said. "And when my dad remarried, my mom now, she actually worked in a teaching hospital, and she would take us there, and from an early age, I got to see the cool things that doctors did. And it just kind of solidified it."

Chene says her parents could not afford to pay for her education. And without a green card, she did not qualify for financial aid or scholarships, so she worked full time to put herself through school.

Chene starts medical school in July at Texas A&M University. And she can proudly say she's debt free and ready to change the world one patient at a time.

As for life after medical school, Chene says, ideally, she'd be able to spend half of each year in the U.S. and the other half in South Africa, providing humanitarian aid for the poor.

Julie Tam, reporting.


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