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Teng is latest Tylenol Future Care Scholar

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October 2017

People who grew up with Bettina Teng knew her as the shy young woman who excelled at physics, math and especially violin. Who played music not only in recital halls but also in nursing homes and hospices. Who began her own charity to benefit one such center. Who spent her summers in China watching her beloved grandparents struggle with shortages of water, health care and dignity. Who eventually found a medical school that matched her own zeal to serve the underserved.

Now people also know her as one of only 40 health-care students in the country to receive a 2017 Tylenol Future Care Scholarship for “academic excellence, exemplary leadership, community involvement, and dedication to a career of caring for others.” The first-year College of Medicine student already has received the $5,000 check, which goes toward her tuition.

“My mom was so happy,” said Teng, who was surprised and thrilled to get the call from Tylenol.

One of her undergraduate and research mentors at Florida Atlantic University – who also co-wrote a manuscript with her – wrote the scholarship coordinators a letter of recommendation praising Teng’s academic juggling abilities.

“In college,” he wrote, “she completed a research internship at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.... She elected to take a course in linear algebra and matrix theory, which inspired her to create a mathematical model of the retina using abstract algebra. During this same time period she ... competed in the Florida State Music Competition, where she won first place in Advanced Solo I as well as competed in the FAU Solo and Aria Competition. As concertmaster of the FAU orchestra, she commuted five hours a week to play in her graduate-level orchestra as a leader of 50 musicians.” Despite the challenges, he said, she made A’s in her courses.

Teng’s science background was particularly strong.

“In high school, I did a lot of physics research,” she said, and the research has continued. “One of my papers, on optics and diffraction, is being published this year in The Physics Teacher, a branch of the American Journal of Physics.”

But particularly noteworthy was her time at the Ann Storck Center in Fort Lauderdale, a nonprofit center for people with mental and physical disabilities. There her interests in music and compassionate care meshed.

“I was 15 years old when I first volunteered there,” said Teng, described by the center’s director as “a responsible and motivated young lady with an unfailingly positive ‘can do’ attitude.” “That’s really the first time I realized that science also can have its limitations” – which is when she found music therapy, for wounds that traditional medicine can’t heal.

“Music is something I would always turn towards in high school because I was very shy,” she said. “I didn’t really know how to express myself. So I brought my violin to the center, and that really allowed me to communicate with all these different kinds of people and different cultures.

“I worked with people with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome. There was this 4-year-old boy who couldn’t talk – but when he would hear music, he could sing all the lyrics to certain songs. That’s something I wanted to share with more people.”

Her violin came to medical school with her. So far, it has been mostly idle. Too much studying. But next semester, Teng hopes to unleash its healing powers again.

“What drew me to FSU was really the mission statement,” Teng said. “That’s something that I feel strongly about, helping underserved populations. And the best way for me to do that, I think, is this school. It’s a perfect match for what I want to do.”

Previous College of Medicine recipients: Devan Patel, Class of 2019; Ryan Shannon, Class of 2015; Brett Thomas, Class of 2014.