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Florida State University

John Wilcox

Service-driven student seeks to help others through research, volunteerism

"Regardless of the type of service, I feel that volunteerism is imperative for maintaining the health and wellbeing of those living within a community."
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Major: Exercise Science
Graduation: Spring 2017


John Wilcox, who lives with Type 1 diabetes, is driven to make strides in the future of endocrinology — the study of the endocrine system, which is responsible for the secretion of hormones such as insulin.

Starting with a Directed Individual Study (DIS) research assistant position, Wilcox began his study of Type 1 diabetes by performing data entry and analysis regarding the clinical psychology of Type 1 diabetic children and their parents.

During this study he assessed the emotions of the children being cared for by specific endocrinologists. From there, Wilcox went on to shadow a clinical endocrinologist, Dr. Larry C. Deeb. He was able to observe Deeb's medical practice, where he treats children who suffer from pediatric endocrine disorders. This experience further helped to familiarize him with clinical experience involving both children and families affected by these illnesses.

"Being a Type 1 diabetic and working with patients who have Type 1 diabetes, I am able to hold a very close relationship with them versus people who do not have to deal with a chronic endocrine disease," Wilcox said.

This past summer, Wilcox was accepted into a research program at Yale University. At Yale, he worked under Dr. Robert Sherwin in the Department of Internal Medicine. Using MRI technology, Wilcox studied the effects of food preference at varying blood sugar levels in people with Type 1 diabetes. In addition, he was able to study the blood sugar levels at which diabetics began to experience symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), effects of folate on diabetic brain health and closed loop system technology.

Outside of his research, Wilcox is a headstrong scholar and devoted to service. He is a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, the Garnet and Gold Scholar Society and the FSU Honors program, which he was invited to join after maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.

"John is one of the guys who hits the ground running and doesn't waste any time," said Steve Mills, associate director at the Center for Leadership and Social Change and mentor to Wilcox. "His first day here he was looking for opportunities to lead and make a difference. His defining characteristic is that he never rests. He's always looking to make a difference."

Aside from academics, Wilcox also is highly interested in research and service. As one of only 12 FSU students in the class of 2018 to be named a Service Scholar by the Center for Leadership and Social Change, Wilcox completed 190 community service hours in his first year of college and continues to complete 75 hours per semester.

"I enjoy service that benefits those in need directly and that impacts a large amount of people at the same time," he said. "I understand how important it is to give back to the community as a college student and, one day, a physician."

Involved in service not only with the Florida State community but in Tallahassee and Alabama at large, Wilcox devotes his time to many charitable organizations. Wilcox works with iGrow Tallahassee, a local agricultural community program; FocusFirst Tallahassee, a service that provides sight screenings at preschool for children who may have unknown vision problems; and IMPACT Alabama, which provides free tax-filing services to impoverished families in Alabama counties. But his volunteer experience doesn't end there — he's done everything from sorting food for Second Harvest to tutoring Hispanic students in English.

"Regardless of the type of service, I feel that volunteerism is imperative for maintaining the health and well-being of those living within a community," he said.

"John not only demonstrates academic excellence, but also his wonderful leadership through organizing study groups and helping other students on course materials," said Wei Yang, associate professor for the Department of Chemistry. "As I can tell, besides being intelligent, he is remarkably curious and driven. In my personal opinion, these are the two key elements leading to success."

After graduation, Wilcox plans on attending medical school and remaining active in his Type 1 diabetes research. Further, he hopes to specialize in pediatric endocrinology where he wants to use his unique insight into the disease to ensure that every child that comes through his practice is living the healthiest life they can through monitoring and control of their autoimmune deficiency.

"My ultimate goal as an FSU student is to build pathways of success not just for myself, but for those yet to enter college so they can have the opportunities that I have been so blessed to receive."