Friendswood woman named a 2009 Rhodes Scholar

By Mike Tolson
Houston Chronicle

A former Friendswood High School valedictorian is one of two Texans named Sunday as Rhodes Scholars, a prestigious program that allows American college graduates to continue their education at Oxford University in England.

Malorie Snider, 21, will pursue a master of science in medical anthropology after she graduates next year from Harvard University. Medical anthropologists study health, illness and treatment in the context of broader social, cultural and environmental influences.

Snider, the top Friendswood student in 2005, plans on pursuing a medical degree that will allow her to combine an interest in clinical research with a practice in psychiatry.

"Much of the research I think I would be interested in doing would involve the genetics of psychiatric disorders," Snider said. "But in a practice, I would like to focus on social aspects of mental illness. A lot of social stigma comes along with a diagnosis of mental illness. I would be interested in working in a community where there is that kind of stigma and looking at what are the social beliefs and institutions that have led to that stigma."

Snider has been involved in mental health advocacy and counseling as an undergraduate. She also has worked as a clinical research assistant at Texas Children's Hospital, experience that she said spurred a resolve to work with patients so that she would have "a chance to really impact someone's life and make a difference."

Snider said she was "shocked and excited" when she learned she was one of the 32 students selected as Rhodes Scholars. She will begin the one-year program next October.

"The particular program in medical anthropology at Oxford is very unique," she said. "It's the perfect fit for me. It not only looks at how social factors influence the way people look at medical institutions but at the way social factors can influence overall health."

Snider will receive a bachelor of arts in biological anthropology from Harvard. She also had a minor in mind, brain and behavior studies.

"It was a gradual process," Snider said of her interest in psychiatry. "I had these two classes my freshman year that got me thinking about mental health and the way social factors affect perception of mental illness."

She said she had planned to take a year or two off after graduating from Harvard to do lab research or work as a mental health advocate. Now she intends to go directly to medical school upon finishing at Oxford.

The other Texan chosen was Stephen Hammer of Carrollton. Hammer attends Princeton University. A campus leader in the Presbyterian ministry, he plans to pursue a master's in theology.