The Richard Holt Science Award, inaugurated in 2017 in conjunction with the completion of the Academy’s Science & Technology Center, is given to WA alumni for their exemplary accomplishments in the field of science. The intent is to recognize and honor the scientists of the past to encourage and inspire the scientists of the future.
The 2023 recipient of this award is Dr. Samuel Dominguez ’88, a pediatric infectious disease doctor. Sam was one of nine Dominguez children who attended Wheaton Christian Grammar School and WA. Sam’s path to medicine started with a WCGS teacher, Beverly Reno, who instilled in him a love for science and math. This interest continued at the Academy where Sam thrived in chemistry and calculus. He was intrigued and motivated by the search for answers to tough questions. This attraction eventually led Sam into medical research, a field he did not initially intend to pursue.
After graduating from WA, Sam attended Houghton College (NY). He also spent a year studying maths and philosophy at Oxford University. Given Sam’s strengths, one of his Houghton professors recommended that Sam consider a relatively new degree track called MSTP, Medical Scientist Training Program. In this program, students go to medical school and work on their PhD at the same time. He was drawn to the idea of medical research where he might have a larger impact than the traditional doctor route. However, before undertaking the commitment of the MSTP, Sam spent four months in Costa Rica learning Spanish and another three months in Jordan working at a missions hospital.
In 1993, Sam entered the University of Chicago’s Medical Scientist Training Program. During his first year of medical school, he met his wife Ann who is also a practicing physician. The couple married in August 1996. Sam spent eleven years at the University of Chicago, finishing medical school, his PhD, his residency, and a year of research.
"Wheaton Academy left me with many wonderful memories – of musicals, concert choir, classes, and teachers. I also met my two best friends, Dave Onufrock and Brian Phinney, at WA, and we are still best friends today. ”
Sam and Ann moved to Denver, Colorado, in 2004, where he is affiliated with the Children’s Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado’s School of Medicine. He is a full professor at the medical school and is also the medical director of the hospital’s clinical microbiology laboratory. In his role as an infectious disease consultant, Sam deals with cases that require his skill as a medical detective, searching for answers when faced with a sick child and no obvious diagnosis. For the last ten years he has also served on a team that identifies infectious disease outbreaks and studies ways to prevent and control them.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sam found himself uniquely situated to deal with the virus. With ten years of bench research focused on coronaviruses and his experience on emerging infectious diseases, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 became his “Esther moment”—a confluence in time when seemingly random areas of his background and education came together perfectly. Sam led the clinical microbiology laboratory to develop the first clinically available test for SARS-CoV-2 in Colorado and served as a content advisor for the hospital and governor’s office.
Sam’s remarkable career is a result of hard work and perseverance, taught to him by his parents. While his work is not easy, he loves what he does and knows he is exactly where he is supposed to be. He is grateful that his expertise has allowed him to have a voice to speak for and protect the most vulnerable. Sam recognizes this as God’s gift of being in the right place at the right time.