Updated: Apr 30, 2019
My first few weeks of college were full of new experiences and excitement but marked by uncertainty as well. I moved four hours from home to attend Louisiana Tech, uncertain if I had made the right choice. I started a Pre-Med Biology major, but was worried it wouldn’t be a good fit, maybe, I thought, I should switch to Studio Art and be an artist like my dad. There’s no way I would stick with this all the way to medical school I thought. Then I pledged to a sorority, unsure if I was cut out for it, let alone if I had chosen the right one. Now, as a senior looking back these three decisions have helped define who I am today.
With the help of Kappa Delta and a gracious older sister I made friends at Louisiana Tech, and after getting through general chemistry I found that I rather enjoyed studying Biology. Kappa Delta brought me Avery and Sydney, two other self-proclaimed “bio babes” who made the labs and late nights of studying not only bearable but laugh-out-loud fun. One of my favorite college memories was made with them when we participated in a bowling tournament and costume competition as “The Bowlologists” sporting lab coats, lab safety goggles, and latex gloves stolen from a microbiology lab. Though we claimed we had bowling down to a science, our performance may not have reflected our boasts. However, we did bring home the trophy for best costume.
I still used my free time to pursue art, even traveling to Berlin to study art abroad. However, I never imagined I would be able to unite my passions for art and science. One complicated morning involving being locked out of my dorm room after a shower and missing a chemistry test as a result, I was introduced to the Louisiana Tech VISTA program. VISTA, the visual integration of science through art, is an interdisciplinary pre-medical illustration program. Students in the program are taught how to create visually pleasing artwork to explain and promote better understanding of complex medical topics. The program partners students with clients in the area to create medical artwork that benefits the Ruston community. I decided to join, unaware of the program’s impact on who I would become.
Beginning the VISTA program meant enrolling in an upper level college art class -- Digital Painting -- the first one I had taken in addition to ten hours of biology and physics courses. As the quarter progressed, my art projects became a necessary outlet to relax. The final project in the class was medical illustration depicting gene editing techniques such as CRISPR, a new, revolutionary method of altering DNA sequences. My project incorporated the mechanism of CRISPR as well as its potential ethical ramifications. After completing the course, I interned with the Lincoln Health Foundation and worked to create illustrations to help educate patients of a local clinic, The Health Hut, on the damaging effects of high blood pressure. This project helped me develop a new passion for health education and literacy. I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego to present my work at a public health conference alongside the physician and professors I collaborated with on the project. My unique experience mixing science with art proved to be a talking point when I interviewed at various medical schools, and I believe it helped me stand out as an applicant.
This fall I will be attending medical school to further my education, but many people have asked me why I decided to pursue medicine after experiencing success through medical illustration. While I enjoy digesting scientific information and turning it into art, I still want to be the one in the room explaining these ideas to patients. In fact, the word doctor comes from a Latin root meaning “to teach.”
Pursuing medicine allows me to not only communicate scientific ideas, but also to connect deeply with people. I hope to be able to use the communication skills I learned to equip my patients to take ownership of their health and to make caring for people my new form of art.
A fellow Kappa Delta and artist, Georgia O’Keefe, once said “I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it stop me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
I know that I have not lived as much life or experienced as much success as Georgia, but as a senior looking back on my college experience, I see that I have gained so much by leaving my comfort zone rather than becoming crippled by uncertainty. I have found that taking leaps (and baby steps) of faith to forge one’s own path is almost always rewarded.