NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Aug. 29, 2014) -- A Vanderbilt University Army ROTC senior Cadet was awarded first place for his research and oral presentation for a new to treatment for glaucoma during the Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Saturday.

The symposium is an annual meeting with that brings together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students from schools around the southeastern United States to foster discussion about physician scientist career paths and research and encourage a collaborative and interdisciplinary educational environment within the region.

Cadet Sean Lee's abstract titled, "Pressure-Induced Alterations in PEDF and PEDF-R Expression: Implications for Neuroprotections in Glaucomatous Axonopathy" was judged the best out of more than 70 entries. By winning, Lee also made history becoming the first undergraduate to take top prize, as all previous winners were graduate students pursuing MD/PhD or MD degrees.

Lee, a neuroscience major, entered Vanderbilt knowing he wanted to be a doctor. "I made the decision before high school to become a doctor," Lee said, based on a conversation he had with his mother. "Since then, I have worked toward achieving that goal."

Attending the Summer Leader Experience at the U.S. Military Academy after his junior year of high school convinced him the Army was also something he wanted to pursue.

Upon entering Vanderbilt, Lee took ROTC classes while exploring all of his options of becoming an Army doctor, including meeting directly with Army Medical Recruiting Command personnel. During his sophomore year, Lee decided to contract as an Army ROTC Cadet.

"ROTC has really prepared me not only for becoming a Soldier, but will help me in many aspects as a doctor," Lee affirmed. "Leading teams is an important part of success medical treatment. As an attending physician, you must be able to brief a patient's history and treatment plan to many different groups, keeping everyone on the same page, which is very similar to briefing an operations order in ROTC."

According to Lt. Col. Kenric Smith, professor of military science at Vanderbilt University's "Go Gold" Battalion, Lee has a bright future as a doctor and a Soldier. "Cadet Lee did not need ROTC to become an Army physician," Smith said, "But his performance as a Cadet will give him a better understanding of the Soldier experience. He undoubtedly will be a great doctor and an asset to the Army."

Lee has several medical school interviews scheduled in the upcoming weeks.

(Editor's note: Capt. James Thompson is the executive officer for the Army ROTC "Go Gold" Battalion at Vanderbilt University.)