Pelotonia Fellowship Keeps Young Woman on Path to Medical School

Pelotonia Fellow Khara Walker and mother

Khara Walker’s motivation to pursue a career in oncology research is personally motivated. The 22-year-old exercise science major lost her mother to stage-4 cervical cancer in 2014.

“My mom was my best friend. I told her in her last days that I was going to be a doctor, and what drives me is that promise I made to her. With the way things have come together for me this past year, I have no doubt that this is my calling,” Walker says.

Walker is one of 50 new Pelotonia research fellows awarded funding to pursue hands-on research experiences at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). 

Walker will be studying the immunogenic aspects of ocular melanoma in the research lab of Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, MD, PhD. The project is focused on understanding how the immune system impacts outcomes post eye cancer diagnosis with the goal of developing tangible strategies that will boost immune responses responsible for improving one’s chances of survival from cancer.

“This is an incredible opportunity to learn about cancer research. It also allows me to continue my education without disruptions and stay on track for applying to medical school,” Walker says. “If I hadn’t received this fellowship, I would have had to take time off from school to save money for medical school.”  

Although Walker's goal has always been to attend medical school and ultimately become an oncologist, her path to get there has changed during her time as an undergraduate at Ohio State.

Khara was recruited to Ohio State to run track and came here on a scholarship, which enabled her to afford to pay for college.

“I aspired to enter the professional running world, and put whatever money I acquired from that towards medical school. However, my collegiate career didn’t go anything like I thought it would, and injuries have made it nearly impossible for me to do that, so I had to find another way to afford medical school,” she recalls.  

Shortly after coming to this conclusion, she an unexpected opportunity presented itself that opened new doors for her. While warming up for practice one day, she ran into Paul Weber, MD, a professor of ophthalmology and then head of the College of Medicine governing board.

“He introduced me to key faculty and more specifically, Dr. Gloria Fleming, who told me about the Pelotonia fellowship program. I applied and have been blessed enough to receive the fellowship.”

About the Pelotonia Fellowship Program

The Pelotonia Fellowship Program provides research fellowship opportunities to undergraduate and medical students at Ohio State as well as postdoctoral fellows and international scholars. The program has awarded more than $11 million in funding for 399 student fellowships at Ohio State.

To learn more about participating in the Pelotonia 2016 bicycle tour, visit