Joey DePorre grew up in an unconventional family. Over a period of 10 years during his childhood in Florida, DePorre’s parents welcomed over a dozen foster children into their home. The children would show up needing clothing, food, shelter, and most of all, the family’s love, DePorre says. His experiences with his foster siblings were a factor in his plan to go into medicine and become a doctor, as well as in his decision to enroll at Notre Dame.
“Seeing the difficulties and the circumstances they’ve had to overcome played into me wanting to have a role in my career where I’m helping others,” says DePorre. “I felt that the service aspect here was unique to Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame, he knew, was a place where he could pursue a career in medicine with the goal of making a difference.
DePorre is currently majoring in biological sciences, a field that first interested him in high school. His favorite course during his first semester was a biology class called Who’s in Control: The Role of Microbiomes in our World.
“Instead of starting first-year biology majors off with a general overview, you get to focus on an in-depth approach to a topic that interests you,” says DePorre. “In my class, we learned about our microbiome, which [are] the microbes and microorganisms living in our body and on our skin. The number of genes in our microbiome is 200 times the number of genes in our human selves, so they can really influence our health."
DePorre says that while he is considering doing research on the microbiome, he is also interested in neuroscience, and he is currently working in a research lab with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, near his home in Ponte Vedra. The lab studies genetic indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.
Throughout high school, DePorre volunteered in the Mayo Clinic’s surgery and emergency departments, as well as with Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministries (BEAM), which aids locals who are struggling financially. DePorre organized food drives and volunteered at food pantries through BEAM during his high school summers.
On campus, DePorre lives in Dillon Hall and played flag football this year, which he says builds the camaraderie of the hall as sections (groups of rooms) compete. “I also enjoy the fun competition and community of the Ultimate Frisbee Club," says DePorre. The friendships he has formed through these and other activities at Notre Dame have so far been the best part of his college experience.
“It’s interesting to meet people from all over and hear their stories, and to find that people my age are all pretty similar despite our different backgrounds,” says DePorre.
He is particularly grateful for the opportunity to be in-person for most of his classes this year, with social distancing in place.
“With the prestigious professors we have, being able to meet them in person and attend those classes was really meaningful," says DePorre. "The smaller class sizes and intimacy of the classes [have] allowed me to develop personal relationships with some of my professors.”
Relationships continue to be a driver for DePorre, who pursues his academic path with the goal of helping others.
There are many paths to a medical degree at Notre Dame. Check out these three.
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