News from the Class of 2015

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Class of 2015 is saddened to inform the greater University of Arizona College of Medicine community that our classmate and friend, Derek Neal, recently was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. With absolutely no risk factors for this disease, the news came as a tremendous shock to our class and to Derek’s family and friends.

Derek became a part of our class when he decided to leave his position as a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurse at The University of Arizona Medical Center – University Campus to pursue his dream of becoming a physician. Since the beginning of our medical training, we were amazed at Derek’s ability to juggle a family at home and intense schoolwork – and still find time to lend a helping hand to his classmates. During the last 14 months, Derek truly has become an integral part of our class and has helped guide many of us through difficult clinical cases by sharing information from his broad knowledge base. Always sitting in an aisle seat in the front right-hand corner of the lecture hall, Derek’s presence, inside and outside of the classroom, has touched us all.

In the face of these difficult circumstances, the Class of 2015 has come together to offer whatever help we can to Derek, his wife, Sylvia, and his two children, Gabe (9) and Emma (5). Members of our class have organized numerous ideas to be of service to him. From delivering meals and doing chores to selling T-shirts, wristbands and raising donations, we have attempted to meet the family’s needs in every capacity. Now we are reaching out to the community to help us provide Derek and his family with a little more security throughout this exceptionally challenging time.

With the support of his family and physicians, Derek currently is undergoing treatment at UAMC in Tucson.

To read more about Derek’s story, contact the family, donate, and more, please visit

By Rachel Baumann and Nicole LaHood, Class of 2015