Davin Quinn, a third-year student at Harvard Medical School who loves to write, is going to Belfast next year as the recipient of a George J. Mitchell scholarship for graduate study in Northern Ireland.
Quinn plans to take a year off from his medical studies to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing from Queen’s University. Quinn said he wanted to take a break and devote time to writing before graduating from medical school and beginning the hectic life of a resident. He plans to return to Harvard in 2003-04 to complete his medical studies.
The Mitchell scholarships were established in 1998 in recognition of the role played by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell in the Northern Ireland peace process. The scholarships seek to establish links between the island of Ireland and a future generation of U.S. leaders.
Quinn is one of 12 recipients this year who will spend a year of graduate study at universities in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Announced by the Washington, D.C.-based US-Ireland Alliance, the scholarships are funded through an endowment established by the Irish government, with support from other donors.
Quinn said he started writing short stories in high school, when he was torn between a love of medicine and a love of writing. While he still professes his love of writing, Quinn said he’s not going to Belfast in search of another career option. He plans to pursue a medical career, possibly in cardiology or pediatrics, but one enriched by his writing.
“I wanted to take an extended time off to write before the train of residency takes off,” Quinn said.
Quinn has managed to keep his writing career alive despite the press of work as a medical student. He co-founded the Harvard Medical School Writing Club and was co-director of the Harvard Medical School Second Year Show, which he helped write and choreograph.
With several short stories already published in college publications, Quinn is currently at work on his second novel. His first, which he terms a “learning experience,” hasn’t been published. He said he hopes to spend his year at Queen’s University to complete a third novel-length work. He isn’t sure yet of the subject matter, though he does have some ideas.
“I really hope the program will help me toward that goal,” he said.
So far, Quinn’s short stories have dealt with historical subjects or personal, character-driven themes. Quinn’s own life has already exposed him to a rich tapestry of cultures and personalities.
Quinn’s father worked for the U.S. State Department and brought the family along on postings to the Philippines, Austria, and Cambodia. Quinn said his family spent two or three years in each place, giving him enough time to soak up the differing cultures. Though some may have found the moves disruptive, Quinn said he easily made friends in different places. His family now lives in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Most definitely it’s been an amazing, eye-opening experience. I just saw so many different things happen,” Quinn said.
His family was in Cambodia during his college years, and Quinn spent one summer as an intern for the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma, transcribing tapes of interviews from survivors of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime during the 1970s. Quinn said the experience gave him the odd feeling of knowing the interviewees well, even though he had never met them.
Quinn did his undergraduate studies at Princeton University, where he was co-captain of the men’s swimming team and was four-time All-Ivy Team Selection and Academic All American Honorable Mention Selection. He graduated with a degree in psychology in 1998.