Pre-med student unlocks path to medical school

Denai Fraction
Denai Fraction

Denai Fraction can’t pinpoint the moment she knew she was destined for a career in medicine. She just always felt drawn to it.

“I thought it was fascinating how the body can just heal itself, even when it faces tremendous trauma,” said Fraction, a sophomore pre-med/biological sciences major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “And then getting to help people — that’s a big factor in why I decided I want to be a doctor.”

The North Omaha native has invested years of hard work both in the classroom and in her community and it has opened doors along the way, including one that has put her dreams of becoming a pediatrician in reach.

Fraction is one of a handful of students across all University of Nebraska campuses selected this year to participate in the Nebraska University Pre-Admission to the Health Sciences program, better known as NU-PATHS. (


NU-PATHS scholars receive full tuition scholarships at the University of Nebraska campus from which they applied. They also are guaranteed admission to the University of Nebraska Medical Center upon successful completion of their undergraduate work.

Each campus has 15 potential seats across all UNMC programs each year, although not all programs select students or have applicants every year. Fraction is just one of four students selected in 2012 from UNL for the medicine program.

Selected participants are University of Nebraska undergraduate students with a demonstrated commitment to practicing in underserved communities in need, or engaging in research specifically targeted at these underserved communities and neighborhoods.

Throughout their undergraduate career, NU-PATHS participants also are invited to attend UNMC seminars, summer enrichment programs and to network with like-minded scholars and professionals in their chosen career field. Fraction is spending her summer attending class four days a week. Her remaining days are spent job-shadowing a clinical doctor.


She dreams some day of opening a health care mediplex in north or south Omaha that’s home to her own pediatric practice along with a dental clinic and family health center. She’s dedicated to making health care more accessible.

A big help in her journey has been her experiences with Girls Inc. She was just 5 years old when she began spending hours after school and summer days with the nonprofit organization, which helped her explore her interests and gain skills and experience that helped prepare her for college and a medical career. Girls Inc. also offered constant reassurance she was on the right track.

“I think they really try to teach the girls that science and technology and math are important and we belong in that field — that we can fit in and succeed,” she said.

Among the opportunities Girls Inc. connected her with during her high school years was the Girls Take Charge program, now known as G-Impact. Each year, participants identify a problem in their community and through research and outreach, strive to lessen its effects. She has researched and organized community events around the issues of lead poisoning, child abuse, and health and fitness.

Girls Inc. also introduced Fraction to UNL. The state’s flagship campus offered a great program of study and the promise of a broad education, which are critical to her future success, she said. Her first campus visit also made a huge impression.

“I could just picture myself there,” she said. “I just felt like I belonged. People made me feel welcome.”

She attended UNL this past year on a Health Sciences Scholarship, which covers tuition for promising health sciences scholars during their first year. She also received a handful of outside scholarships that covered books, room and board. With the NU-PATHS Scholarship and other support she will continue to receive, she’s set to finish her undergraduate career at a minimal cost.


Her success story has traveled all the way to Washington. During a spring visit to Omaha for a Girls Inc. fund-raiser, first lady Michelle Obama referenced Fraction’s accomplishments among those of other young women, saying they now serve as inspiration for the next generation.

Her encouraging words add to the chorus created by Fraction’s mentors, advisers and supporters who see a determined and charismatic young woman full of promise.

She is very sharp, proactive about her studies, and she demonstrates a maturity not commonly seen in first-year students, said Wendy O’Connor, chief adviser within the School of Biological Sciences.

“She is a joy to work with,” she said. “She has a passion for people and for her major, and I believe her future will be a bright one.”