Ka’Dedra Andrea Creech didn’t know when she was going to get her next meal. She didn’t know how she was going to wash her clothes. She was starting to wonder if she could stay in college.

Ka’Dedra Andrea Creech is spending the summer studying at Yale University.

And then she received the J. Gorman ’43 and Gladys Thomas Alumni Scholarship.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“That scholarship changed everything for me. I cannot even begin to tell you how much that scholarship has helped me. It let me focus on my studies and not be so hungry. … Gary always comes through. He’s not someone who just threw some money at me and walked away – he wants to be part of my success.” – Ka’Dedra Andrea Creech about Gary W. Thomas ’83, who established the Thomas Memorial Alumni Scholarship [/pullquote]

“That scholarship changed everything for me. It let me focus on my studies and not be so hungry,” says the senior double majoring in biology and Hispanic Studies. “It was a really hard time in my college career. I still get emotional about it.”

Established by Gary W. Thomas ’83, an oncologist in Hilton Head Island, S.C., in memory of his parents, the scholarship is reserved for students who are planning a career in medicine – something that Creech has been determined to do for as long as she can remember.

“The one thing that impresses me most about Andrea is her total dedication to achieving her goal for a career in medicine,” says Thomas. “She will let nothing stand in her way.”

Not that there haven’t been obstacles.

“It’s not been an easy road. I’ve had a lot of difficult things thrown at me,” admits Creech. “But one thing about me, I never give up. I don’t know how I did it, but I’ve never given up. I don’t know how. I always pull through.”

The confidence that Thomas has in her has helped, for sure.

Read about past recipients of the Thomas Alumni Scholarship.

“Knowing Gary believes in me goes a long way. Every time we talk, he just uplifts me three notches,” Creech says. “Anytime I need Gary, he’s there. Even if it’s last minute, Gary always comes through. He’s not someone who just threw some money at me and walked away – he wants to be part of my success.”

For his part, Thomas is pleased to play a part in Creech’s journey: “I am so proud of her representation of herself, the College and the J. Gorman ’43 and Gladys Thomas Alumni Scholarship. We could not have chosen a more deserving student.”

Gary Thomas '83 and Ka'Dedra Andrea Creech at the College's Alumni Scholars Reception last fall.

Gary Thomas ’83 and Ka’Dedra Andrea Creech at the College’s Alumni Scholars Reception last fall.

Creech’s most recent success has landed her at Yale University for the summer: As part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Exceptional Research Opportunities Program, she is spending 12 weeks with a Yale research team studying type 2 diabetes, a lifelong passion of hers.

“I was matched with a professor there who studies Type 2 diabetes, which is something I’ve always been passionate about because it’s prevalent in my family,” says Creech, whose great-grandmother, grandfather, great-aunt and uncle have all suffered from the disease. “There will be all different levels of experience in there – from post doc to undergraduate and everything in between. I don’t want to get bogged down in my own research. I want to look around and see what they’re doing. That’s something I’ve never really been exposed to before.”

What she has been exposed to before, however, is research.

“I started researching my freshman year and I haven’t stopped since,” laughs Creech, who has been researching pediatric cardiology with faculty at the Medical University of South Carolina since 2014. “I just really love research. I don’t really know why. If I try to explain it, it won’t sound right. I guess I feel like I’m contributing to mankind’s database of knowledge.”

Creech has found her success not just in research laboratories, of course. She’s found it in herself: “I’ve definitely seen myself grow. I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be.”

“I know I want to be a PA, and I know I want to continue to do research even then, so everything I’ve done at the College of Charleston has prepared me for those things,” she says, noting how far she has come since she first arrived in the lab her freshman year. “I was just so excited!”

And even now, Creech has a lot to be excited about: When she returns to Charleston this fall, she’ll continue volunteering for CofC EMS, continuing her MUSC lab research and applying to physician assistant schools.

And, thanks to Thomas, she won’t be worried about her next meal. She’s got plenty on her plate.


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