PLTW Biomedical Science Alumna Driven by Dreaming More Than Others Think Is Practical

Shawn Hardina is a PLTW Biomedical Science teacher at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, Arizona.

The Campo Verde High School biomedical sciences pathway's purpose is to create collaborative communities dedicated to changing STEM education and workforce development. Our pathway is founded on the Core Value of E.P.I.C.: Excellent – expect more than others think is possible; Professional – engage in professional behaviors at all times; Inspirational – unified in our common belief to help and inspire others; and Creative – dream more than others think is practical.

One student who has lived up to – and surpassed – these high expectations is PLTW Biomedical Science alumna Kelsie O'Brien, class of 2014. Kelsie in currently a sophomore at the United States Air Force Academy. She is majoring in biochemistry and plans on becoming a heart surgeon. She has organized and is leading numerous medical clubs and opportunities for cadets and the public. She is also playing rugby and achieving academically. Kelsie is well on her way to helping solve the problems of tomorrow and making the world a better place.

You can learn more about Kelsie’s inspiring story by reading the following letter she shared with me:

Mr. Hardina,

I want to express my deep appreciation for everything you and the biomed program have done to get me to where I am today, because with your guidance, knowledge, and faith, I feel more than prepared to apply to medical school and seek a career in surgery. I have no doubt that the skills and traits I learned and adopted in high school will carry my ambition and drive here at the academy, where just like everywhere else being a pre-med student throws you into a competition for your future. I am a strong contender that gets stronger every day, thanks to biomed.

I’m currently the Assistant Cadet in Charge of the Pre-Health Professions Club here at USAFA, which is responsible for organizing MCAT study groups, setting up volunteer activities in the surrounding medical community of Colorado Springs and up into Denver, touring medical schools, preparing for medical school interviews, and seeking shadowing opportunities in medical careers that span across the field. I had no problem translating the ability to present myself as a driven professional, both in person and over the phone or email, like I had to as a high school student marketing the program to the medical community back in Arizona. The biomed program honed me into a confident and organized leader that had to take charge in order to make things happen, because if we wanted to experience something we had to seek it out, and that’s how the real world operates.

I shadowed a few physicians in high school, and the elements of communication and forward thinking that I had to adopt through biomed paid off then, and continue to pay off now. I have no problem seeking out medical professionals who are more than willing to help someone that knows how to show passion and motivation toward learning and experiencing the medical field. The hospital I shadow and volunteer at was overjoyed to see how much of HIPAA I understood and remembered from my time in biomed, and I secured a position working in pediatrics without an issue. Taking the initiative, just like you always expected us to, is what allowed me to set myself apart as the youngest member of the Memorial program on a surgical rotation.

By far the most influential piece of the biomed program that has transcended into my life are the lessons I learned through the senior capstone project. I am currently right in the middle of attempting to change a policy for post-surgical patients here at the academy, integrating them back into the cadet system in a safe and mandated fashion. It is extremely complicated to change military policy and taking an idea and making it a reality takes tenacious persistence, sound methodology, and the ability to adapt under the ever-changing pressures of life. Had I not experienced this exact process through biomed, I probably would have given up long ago on my vision. Hopefully within the year, my hard work will pay off and my policy will result in waves of change here at USAFA, all thanks to experiences I proudly remember from the biomed program.

Without the biomedical sciences program, I wouldn’t have developed the skills and traits I have that contribute every day to furthering my medical career. I came to the U.S. Air Force Academy with the utmost confidence in my ability to seek opportunities, to even make my own opportunities, to lead a group of people in pursuit of medicine, to dream more than others think is practical, and achieve those dreams. I have you and the biomedical sciences program to thank for that.

KELSIE J. O’BRIEN, C/Third Class, USAFA

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of this guest author.