Heart and Smarts Describe Michael Horton

May 15, 2009 — "If there were ever a student who has a heart full of love for and concern about humankind, fourth-year student Michael Horton is that person. ... When he becomes a doctor, I have no doubt he is going to be phenomenal because of it," said Sylvia Terry, associate dean of African-American Affairs.

"Anytime I see him, he offers the brightest smile and the cheeriest hello this side of Charlottesville," said one of his advisees.

Terry appointed Horton as one of the senior peer advisers in the University's award-winning Peer Advisor Program this year, the highest leadership position a peer adviser can achieve. He not only had his own advisees, but also worked with all the peer advisers, planning monthly meetings and other activities, besides helping them with their issues and concerns as advisers. He talked with his advisees not only about their progress in their current classes, but also assisted them with mapping out a four-year plan, Terry said.

A Chesapeake native and art history major, Horton followed a pre-med curriculum. He went beyond the call of duty in running the Office of African-American Affairs' pre-med program and support group, Terry said, taking over the group in his second year when the chairman had to step down. She was so impressed with his efforts that she reappointed him to head the group the following year.

Horton invited doctors from U.Va. and the local community to pre-med workshops, so the students could hear about a variety of experiences. He also created a "shadowing" week so students could follow medical students through their days.

As part of the African-American Affairs office's "Raising the Bar" academic initiative, Horton coordinated weekly chemistry problem-solving sessions and attended each session as a tutor. He organized peer advisers to tutor in biology and calculus, as well.

Horton used his artistic talents to update the Pre-Med Survival Guide. Along with added information, "the book ended up with a wonderful make-over," Terry said.

A member of the Daniel Hale Williams Pre-Med Society at U.Va., Horton attended an intensive, six-week program at the Yale Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, one of 12 national programs funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program aims to prepare students from groups underrepresented in medicine to become more successful applicants to medical school.

A Gates Millennium Leadership Scholar who was in the AccessUVA financial-aid program, Horton is a first-generation college student.

"Being a first-generation college student, it was a challenge when applying for college, because no one in my family was familiar with the process. I had no idea that the University of Virginia existed until two years before I matriculated," he said.

Strongly encouraged by one of his high school teachers, Horton visited the Grounds and "fell in love with the students, faculty, administrators and natural beauty of the institution." He always made it a goal to help others, especially pre-med students, he said.

"Michael Horton is gifted, unselfish and gives to others from his heart," said Dr. Marcus Martin, former chairman of the U.Va. Health System emergency department and now associate vice president for diversity and equity. "Michael has organized educational sessions for pre-med students, and he has participated in community events such as health fairs.

"I look forward to following Michael's career, because he is certain to make a difference in the world of medicine," Martin said.

Martin and Francesca Fiorani, an associate professor of art history, praised his scholarly accomplishments.

Even as a pre-med student, he did not shy away from exploring different fields in the humanities, Fiorani said. Horton took her classes on Renaissance art history and Leonardo da Vinci and also attended the January Term program she leads in Florence.

"I was always impressed by his calm nature and exceptional intellectual curiosity," Fiorani said.

In addition to his activities with his peers, Horton reached out to youth. He volunteered with the Office of Admission's Black Student Admissions Committee. He also helped with the Fall Fling and Spring Fling programs for visiting prospective students and their families.

Assistant dean Valerie Gregory, who directs outreach efforts in the Office of Admission, said Horton has been dedicated and dependable in assisting her office with the recruitment of underrepresented students. "He owns a 'piece of the pie' for the progress we have made with diversifying the entering classes of U.Va.," she said.

Horton will put his caring spirit and boundless energy to work in a hospital in the Norfolk area next year before attending medical school.