Elmore balances Olympic dream, Ph.D. program

July 29, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Michigan Medicine News,

Elmore rowing 2.fwNearly three years ago, Amanda Elmore never imagined she’d be going to Rio. Now, the U-M Ph.D. candidate in biomedical sciences is a week away from the global stage.

Elmore’s Olympic story began in 2013, halfway into her first and only year on the U-M rowing team. She was beginning her studies as a Ph.D. candidate, a rigorous five-to-seven year academic path.

At the time, Elmore was considering pursuing a spot on the U.S. national rowing team. But it was a complicated decision, knowing it would be difficult to balance her academic and athletic passions.

In the end, Elmore decided to go after her dream. And when the rowing competition opens Aug. 6 in Rio de Janeiro, she will be inside the women’s eight boat representing the U.S. It’s the final step in a quick ascension from club team walk-on to the Olympics.

“It’s really amazing how many opportunities rowing has given me so quickly,” Elmore said. “When I came to Michigan, I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’ll be done with rowing now,’ but the opportunity was there.”

A return to the lab

Right now, rowing is Elmore’s priority, but come this fall, she will be back in the lab. She’s studying Fusobacterium nucleatum, a gut microbiome, in the development and progression of colorectal cancer. It’s bacteria that’s found in everyone’s mouth but is abundantly found in the gut of patients with colon cancer.

The lab she’s a part of is studying to find a connection between the bacteria and the cancer and is using genetics to figure out what the bacteria are doing.

In the lead-up to the Olympics, Elmore has never stopped helping her labmates. She participates in weekly conference calls and video-chats about the latest discoveries.

While striking the difficult balance between academics and athletics, Elmore has always received high marks from her instructors.

“For her to do as well as she has is amazing,” said Pat Schloss, the Frederick Novy Collegiate Professor of Microbiome Research and Elmore’s thesis advisor.

“Athletics brought a lot to Amanda’s life and no doubt helped make her more disciplined and work harder,” Schloss said. “Somebody that makes time for practice knows how to manage time, knows about honor.”

Schloss has become Elmore’s biggest fan. “We’ll [all] be pulling for her. We want her to come back with a gold medal.”

“I want that more than anything,” Elmore said about winning gold. “The thought of crossing the finish line first with my best friends sounds like a dream come true.”

Teamwork at UMHS

In the spirit of the Olympics, Headlines would like to recognize gold-medal worthy examples of teamwork at UMHS.

Send a story about how your unit, or another department, demonstrates teamwork, along with a photo of the colleagues you’d like to acknowledge to headlines@med.umich.edu by Friday, Aug. 5.  It could be featured in an upcoming issue of Headlines – and bonus – if your story is highlighted, you’ll get two free movie tickets to the Michigan Theater!

If you’d like to read more about Amanda’s journey to the Summer Games, click here.