Originally created 06/30/03

Ex-dropout earns Yale fellowship



Paul Weinberger is the first to say how surprised he is to be doing research at Yale starting Tuesday.

It was only a few years ago that the longtime Asheville, N.C., resident and third-year med student was kicked out of Emory University with a 1.1 grade point average.

"I was pretty immature and not willing to work for the things I wanted," Mr. Weinberger said.

The only place where the college dropout could find a job was in an Atlanta church kitchen. He started taking classes at night and working during the day, graduating from Georgia State University summa cum laude in 1997.

Because of his academic record, he wasn't accepted to the Medical College of Georgia until 2000.

His research fellowship at Yale will deal with the relationship between human papillomavirus, one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, and squamous cancer of the head and neck. HPV is already known to have a relationship to cervical and penile cancers. The research will focus on the 10 to 15 percent of squamous cancer cases that are not related to smoking or alcohol use but seem to have a correlation with the virus.

Mr. Weinberger applied for a fellowship through a consortium of 10 universities, thinking that if he was awarded any position, it would be at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was shocked when he found out Yale was considering him, he said.

David Terris, the chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat specialty) at MCG, met Mr. Weinberger when he was doing a rotation in his department.

"He came to me and said this was suggested to him. He knew he wanted to do research, and rather than waiting, I encouraged him to do it now," Dr. Terris said.

Dr. Terris says Yale was attracted to Mr. Weinberger's experience, his persistence in getting an education after he was kicked out of school, and his work toward his personal goals.

He said he also finds Mr. Weinberger to be thoughtful, energetic and mature enough to know he has to go through several steps to get to his goals.

Mr. Weinberger and his wife, Stacey, moved to Connecticut last weekend.

"It's really scary and very difficult to do," he said of the move.

His main concern is missing his friends from medical school and from the church choir he and his wife sing in.

Singing brought the Weinbergers together.

Mr. Weinberger and two friends were trying to start an a cappella quartet at First Baptist Church in Atlanta but couldn't find a tenor. One of his friends suggested adding Stacey Adams to the group, but Mr. Weinberger didn't want to. He thought it would be better with all men.

Her voice blended well with the others in the group, though, and a year later he had a hard decision to make.

"I thought, OK, God, I really like this girl, but I don't want to ruin the quartet," he said.

He asked her on a date. Three months later they were engaged.

Reach MaryAnne Pysson at (706) 823-3332.