SCHOLARSHIP FINALISTS 2018
1. Tori Cook
When do cells become patients? Sitting on the floor of the research library at 11pm, I couldn’t find the answers. My marked up, worn out lab notebook overflowing with notes didn’t have the answer. “Patient 084362’s glioblastoma stem cell tissue culture arrived!” exclaimed a post-doctorate at the Paddison lab.
No name, no identity, just a number. In an effort to keep anonymity and objectiveness in research, people are reduced to cells - cells that are easily replaceable and reproducible. Sometime between searching for answers and meeting patients, I lost touch with my humanity and the implications of my work.
Walking down the hospital hallway, I looked outside the large window to see the library I sat in late at night. But this time I didn’t need to ask any textbook for answers. Instead, I met a 10-year-old girl with a bright smile that lit up the room, despite facing an unimaginable hardship. She came up to me and gave me a compliment, “You have such pretty hair!’ she exclaimed.
Her spirit stayed with me long after I left the room. I was heartbroken that I couldn’t give her the same compliment back; heartbroken that she was suffering.
Later that afternoon, the physician told me that the bright-smiled girl had glioblastoma and would most likely not make it past 11. Tears started flowing down my cheeks as I thought about the future stolen from her.
When I returned to my lab, it felt like the pieces suddenly fit together. The origin of my passion for medical research became clear again. My love of science stemmed from my love for humanity and ever-present desire to pursue knowledge. It wasn’t to spend all day following meaningless protocols, it was to help the hopeful girl suffering in a hospital room 500 feet away from me.
The next few days, weeks, and months were filled with blood, sweat, and tears. I realized petri dishes had a past, a future, and a community that cares and loves them. It was my duty to give these patients a fighting chance at the future they deserve.
It is nearly impossible to dichotomize science from medicine for medicine is science. However, the differentiating factor between science and medicine is empathy; people are not merely a system of organs that all need the same care and face the same problems. Medicine addresses both physical and emotional pain - the feelings, concerns, and imminent struggles patients face. Patients are human, and humans deserve passionate, curious doctors who refuse to give up hope, and will go to the ends of the earth for their patients.
I aspire to be that doctor. I aspire to look beyond a case and into the patient, each as a unique entity - using my strengths to provide the best possible care. Until that day, find me laughing with patients, crying with families in the waiting room, standing behind the physician, daydreaming about the day I get to return the compliment.
2. Tabassum Mohibi
Emblazoned on a clinician’s uniform are the credentials, stamps of education, and discrete rodomontade—seated within the material, is a secret. Why are you actually here? Why did you choose this profession? What makes you destined to be a healthcare provider? By and large, you are crapulous by the “American Dream,” were a long-term patient in a hospital, or constantly gripped by the mountain range of medicine.
Yet, I can’t help but wonder, does our world understand medicine, or are we just spellbound by the romanticized version? Personally, I feel ambivalent learning medicine en route to physician assistant practice—inspired by the diverse settings for practice, but melancholic by the lack of students’ appeal to primary health care. In addition to disease prevention, health advocacy, and education, primary care is accessibility.
By virtue of our growing population, we tried to adapt the needs of primary care with the FNP and PA professions. Professions that are resplendent due to their ability to expand access to economic-friendly healthcare. However, this solution does not delve below the root of our problem.
In medicine, we learn about the science of human bodies, and treating these bodies within the walls of our offices and hospitals; but, in any case, these bodies exist beyond our walls, exposing themselves to environmental, educational, and other social determinants of health. So, while I am beckoned to primary health care as a physician assistant, this sector is more impressive when integrated with public health.
After completing Pace’s PA program, I plan to explore this integration within primary health care settings and work towards building partnerships between clinics and community resources such as homeless shelters, safe houses, or domestic violence services.
In the Westchester area, I volunteer for Victims Assistance Services as a Rape Crisis Counselor. VAS maintains a partnership with Westchester Medical Center to send advocates to the emergency room and ensure that survivors are treated respectfully by clinicians. After the survivor leaves the emergency room, they have access to free therapy through VAS, but the relationship does not go much further. With the steep costs of emergency care, communities need to create more links between healthcare and organizations such as VAS, to expand our ability to follow-up on a survivor’s health or treat a potential illness that was not communicated in the emergency room.
Hence, I hope to also achieve a degree in public health, and continue to form a seamless overlap between public health and primary healthcare. The Murse World scholarship would be used to aid in my tuition fees at Pace University and ensure that I am financially able to continue my future education. Education is paramount for accomplishing certain goals, especially goals that will require reform and national change. In my utopia, I see communities as liberating safe havens, places for health, and a place for orotund voices to be celebrated and heard.
Working towards building communities like this: the purpose within my uniform.
3. Ashley Hytrek
When I was still in pig-tails, my grandmother allowed me to use her glass cutter for the first time. Glide. Snap. Place. Stained glass played a tremendous role in my childhood. The concept behind it, adding light to a dull place, is something that I hope to carry into my adult life.
I hope to provide light to the world by becoming a biomedical engineer and then advancing to medical school. Ever since I can remember, I have been obsessed with science, math, and bodily anatomy. These particular interests led me to the conclusion that I should get my undergraduate in Biomedical Engineering and then continue on to medical school. My goal is to help as many people as possible, with a focus on veterans. While it may be cliché, I have been obsessed with the idea of adding shining light to a dark place, just a stained-glass artist does. I hope to accomplish this by providing medical care to veterans.
There is a myriad of reasons as to why I am so passionate about veterans. For one, my father is one. I grew up around many and saw first-hand just how much they sacrificed for us.
Many veterans have deep injuries, ones that don’t surface until years later. In addition, last year I was a volunteer for Veterans of Foreign Wars. It broke my heart seeing the lasting scars that the men and women had, years after they had completed their service. Seeing the burdens these heroes must endure drives me to make a meaningful difference in their journeys.
One of the main fields biomedical engineers innovate in is prosthetics. Many veterans today require prosthetics, but it can be difficult to obtain them. I hope to revolutionize the prosthetics industry and help veterans obtain the most up-to-date technology possible. By providing these, I hope to shine some light into their worlds. As for the medical side of my education, I hope to be a part of groundbreaking research in the field of stem cells. I see too many veterans with long-lasting damage and no substantial cure. Furthermore, I want to help veterans medically by providing care, whether it is in the field or at home. I want to be able to administer and help others administer care to them. They protected our country, the least we can do is protect their health.
All in all, I can’t wait to get out into the real world and do what I do best- help others. Most of my day is spent daydreaming about what will happen when I have the knowledge and skills to start helping people in more large-scale ways. By obtaining a background in Bio- Medical Engineering and attending medical school, I hope to help all kinds of people, namely veterans. Providing them with prosthetics and the care they deserve would shine the kind of light into the world that a stained-glass artist would be proud of.
4. Kailer Jones
My choice of a future career came about from my desire to make the world a better place for families of individuals and individuals, like me, who are susceptible to death from anaphylaxis. My family knew, from a prior experience as a toddler, that I was allergic to peanuts. Since that time, I had been drilled on what I could and couldn’t eat. Then, when I was four years old, and in my Sunday school class, a defining moment in my life occurred that would inspire me to pursue a career in improving the lives of others.
My Sunday school teacher was serving peanut butter crackers in class. I pushed the cracker away with my finger and told the teacher that I couldn’t have it. Immediately, my eyes swelled up and my throat started closing. I couldn’t breathe. I was having an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Fortunately, my mother was able to administer an EpiPen which saved my life. This deadly reaction was caused from just touching a cracker. From that moment on, my parents and I would live in fear about the possibility of my exposure to peanuts.
We avoided restaurants, sports affairs, movie theaters, and anywhere else that peanut residue might be. Encountering something or someone who had touched peanuts was risky for me. When I started attending public school, our fears about peanut exposure was heightened. I had to carry an EpiPen with me everywhere as a precaution. The school staff, in their attempts to keep me safe, made me sit at my own lunch table dubbed, “the peanut table.” This made lunchtime lonely and humiliating for me.
Several years later I began a process called desensitization that was monitored by an immunologist. I was given a serum that contained tiny amounts of peanut which were slightly increased at each weekly visit. A year later, upon finishing this program, I was able to eat a whole peanut for the first time!
My family and I no longer had to avoid or fear places and activities where peanuts were served. I was able to enjoy Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups and peanut butter sandwiches for the first time. Seeing an allergist greatly enriched my life. Along with this new and improved lifestyle a career goal was formed. I wanted others, with similar problems, to also experience life without worry. It was then, that I decided to become an immunologist.
I have been accepted to the University of Oklahoma where I plan to pursue a medical degree and fulfill my childhood dream of becoming an immunologist. The many years of required school will be costly. I have been working and saving money to help with this endeavor. However, it will be through winning opportunities such as this, that I might achieve my goal. Thank you for considering me as an applicant for the Murse World Scholarship. As an immunologist, I know that someday I will improve many other’s lives just as you are doing by awarding this scholarship to someone.
5. Sara Pross
My career objective was birthed after a life-altering journey that I recently experienced with a very special person-my dad. My dad has always been one of the strongest and most driven people I have ever known. But on September 4, 2017, the strongest man I knew was given some paralyzing news. He was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Due to the aggressive nature of the disease, he was given four months to live. But he refused to give in to this report. Over the next year, he underwent monthly chemotherapy treatments and seven clinical trials in attempts to beat this evil disease.
It seemed trial after trial was met with the same bad news: "the trial was not affective". But my dad would just smile up at the oncologist and shrug his shoulders and say, "ok, what's next, doc?" He was never defeated and never gave up. He was quite a fighter! It became his mission to make sure no one else had to suffer from this horrific cancer. During the last trial, the oncologist reported that he did not believe that the trial would be successful and suggested that my dad return home to spend whatever precious time he had left with his family. My dad asked if finishing the trial would potentially help someone else. When the oncologist affirmed that completing the final phase would allow it to obtain FDA approval and may lead to a cure for thousands of cancer patients, my dad elected to finish the trial.
On August 16, 2018, my dad was barely able to speak. He squeezed my hand and struggled to stay awake with me. Even now, my hero was not going to stop fighting for me. And in that moment, I knew I had to let him go. I took his face in my hands and looked him in the eyes and I said as reassuring as I could through tear stained eyes, "dad, I am going to be ok, you can rest now. I love you." He could not speak but I know he understood because a tear rolled down his face after one last squeeze of my hand, he closed his eyes.
My dad passed away and in that moment, he passed the baton to me. My career objective is to continue his fight. I plan to obtain a medical degree with a specialty in oncology. I recently partnered with the Leukemia Society and raised $12,000 to fund clinical research trials. I will pursue oncology medicine and aggressively fight for a cure. It is my goal to not let another little girl have to grow up without her daddy. With this scholarship, I will be a little closer to attaining that goal and keeping my promise to my dad. I will make it my life’s aspiration to continue my dad’s fight. My dad never gave up and neither will I!
6. Paul Grosrenaud
Obtaining interpreters or any method of communication for these patients can be difficult. Without them, patients’ complaints and longings are often lost in translation. This is critical in considering how isolation and a lack of communication can dampen patients’ interest in recovering. Repeatedly, I have spoken with or interpreted for patients who, isolated and eager for company, told me they felt detached and apathetic towards their rehabilitation. Any patient’s greatest investment into their own health stems from a need to feel connected to others, and feeling heard and appreciated is the ideal motivator. There is a loneliness in fighting for one’s life, but it can be stared down and defeated with help from strong social connections.
Physicians are in the privileged position of having a greater impact on a patient’s well-being than anyone, and forming a strong bond through compassion can significantly influence a patient’s sense of control and empowerment in their own recovery. My experiences in the medical field have taught me that empathy acts as the crux of a physician-patient relationship, and in healthcare, communication is never simply about conveying information. It is not just for questions, opinions, jokes, and encouragements. It is a method of building interpersonal trust. Along with a constant willingness to act as both a student and teacher, these qualities empower practitioners to act as personal, emotional analgesics for their patients. Through these encounters, physicians who practice compassion are granted painful, arduous, and invaluable degrees of personal growth over the course of their lifetimes.
My primary objective in becoming a physician is exactly that. I want the challenging but attainable everyday satisfaction that can be found in connecting with someone who, like André, is eager to be heard, understood, and unencumbered. I covet having patients who view themselves as full participants in discussions about their health. In a society where one’s professional life can often feel littered with abstractions and analytics, medical and psychological restoration provides a much-needed throb of raw, emotional vigor onto both the patient and the healer. It is not always fun, breezy, or grandly inspirational, and it demands unwavering attention, discipline, and effort. Nonetheless, I see it as the best way for me to benefit those around me. It is as personally rewarding an experience as I have ever encountered, and I can say with certainty that it will never cease to drive my passion for medicine.