Inspiring Young Alumni: Catching up with Thomas Zaikos ’06
Thomas Zaikos ’06 is living a life of service to others as he navigates the field of medicine in an educational journey that has taken him from St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) to across the United States.
In the 15 years since his SMCS graduation, Zaikos has completed his post-secondary career with a bachelor of science from St. Bonaventure University in Olean, N.Y., a doctor of medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington DC, and most recently a second doctorate in philosophy from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Zaikos is currently a second-year anatomic pathology-neuropathology resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, a teaching hospital and biomedical research facility, located in Baltimore, Md.
Attending St. Mike’s was one of those definitive moments for Zaikos. He says the environment encourages its students to be independent and to develop mature personal and professional relationships.
“When I talk about my experience at SMCS, a lot of my American friends say that it sounds a lot like college/university,” shares Zaikos. “I don’t think that’s too far off. I think St. Mike’s is a great place to mature and become prepared for the next step in one’s life and career.”
Read on to learn more about what helped Zaikos become one of SMCS’ inspiring young graduates.
What stands out from your time at SMCS?
I entered SMCS in Grade 9 in 2002 and graduated in 2006. In that time, I joined several of the teams, including soccer, volleyball, and hockey, made many great friends, and began to find my calling in the biological sciences.
How do you continue to be involved with SMCS?
It’s been difficult to stay involved since graduating. I went to university in the U.S. and have been there ever since. However, I keep in touch with several classmates and former teachers. I was also very fortunate to be asked back by Mr. Romano, Co-Head of the Geography and Economics Department at SMCS, to present an award at an athletic banquet several years ago.
How has your Catholic faith supported you?
Being Greek Orthodox, the Catholic faith is not something I was familiar with growing up. Ultimately, by learning about the Catholic faith, I was able to reflect on my faith and that opportunity to compare and contrast really helped me to understand both religions and develop a real respect for both faiths.
How do you live out the Basilian motto of Teach me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge?
I think the motto, “Teach me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge” really was the theme of my time at SMCS. In fact, it continues to be a source of guidance and inspiration. I think those three characteristics: Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge, are imperative in any successful person’s life. To not manifest all three, a person may be unkind, unreliable, or ignorant. I was admittedly more immature as a high school student at SMCS, so I may not have always manifested these virtues then, but as I grew and as I continue to grow, I certainly look to that motto as a reminder of the life-long challenge to develop these virtues.
How do you connect to SMCS within your community or industry?
A lot of my classmates went into medicine. I keep in touch with them periodically. I think one day we would all love to catch up at a reunion.
How do you demonstrate through work that you are being the best for the world?
As a physician-scientist, I’ve committed to a life of learning and service. Charged with making the final call on tissue specimens, as a neuropathologist, it will be my duty to provide definitive answers and, therefore, the most important first step to treatment and healing. But I am also extremely excited and proud to be a part of a dynamic and exciting field of neuroscience and neurovirology, which aims to better understand the black box that is our brain. It is my hope that through my research, I can contribute to the advancement of the field of medicine and indirectly benefit the many patients who suffer from still poorly understood pathologies.
What are your future plans?
I've been working towards the goal of becoming a physician-scientist. Matching to my number one spot at the Johns Hopkins Hospital was an important next step. Over the next several years I will complete my clinical training in neuropathology, develop a research project and scientific niche, compete for my own research funding, hopefully join a major academic center as faculty, and begin asking and answering interesting and important questions. My specific interests, at the moment, include how HIV infects and affects the brain.
What advice would you like to share with the current SMCS students?
I would tell current students to be bold and to be genuine. In doing so, I promise you that in your time at SMCS, you will have some amazing times, you will make mistakes, but you will grow into an extraordinary individual. The best part of St. Mike’s is that the people around you are there only for your growth and education, and so be bold and know that you’re a part of a huge SMCS family and we are all here to help our brothers.
With the continuation of his Catholic formation, ever-evolving education and experiences, Zaikos remains committed to following an inspiring path to being the best for the world by navigating the neuroscience medical field.
We are pleased to feature Thomas Zaikos as a member of the inspiring young alumni. More inspiring young alumni are showcased on the wall outside the main office. These young leaders and change-makers representing a variety of professions are living lives as examples of faith, character, and service.