Academy students seek careers in health care

Tessa Duvall

When Claci Ayers volunteered at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for three weeks this summer, she was more positive than ever that she wanted to go into pediatrics.

Ayers, a Gatton Academy senior from Bowling Green, said she got to play with patients and their siblings, do science experiments with the kids and throw a carnival, which helped her and the patients maintain a positive attitude.

“I didn’t ever have time to sit and think about the tough situations they were in,” she said.

Like many academy students, Ayers is already taking classes that will allow her to earn her degree and begin work in the health care industry sooner than most of her peers.

Director Tim Gott said by the time students get to the academy, many of them are already aware of the job opportunities in the medical field.

“We hope they’ll see there are literally thousands of jobs in math and science that they may have never heard of,” he said.

Other career opportunities besides a medical doctor include biomedical engineering and biophysics, Gott said.

According to student data from the PSAT, 16 out of 61 of this year’s senior class specified they want to enter the medical field, and another six indicated biology or biological sciences, Gott said.

While enrolled at the academy, students are required to take at least one class in physics, computer science, biology and chemistry. Once they have met those core requirements, students then take a minimum of three electives, and many students choose to work toward a pre-medical degree, he said.

Matt Kirk, a 2009 academy graduate from Livermore, chose to focus on biology while at the academy. Now an undergraduate at WKU, Kirk is majoring in biology and plans to pursue a degree at Pike-ville College in osteopathic medicine, which is treating and strengthening muscles and bones to positively treat the body’s other systems.

Kirk said he has always wanted to be a doctor so he can help people in McLean County, which he said has only one physician.

“I come from an area where receiving health care is a privilege and not a right,” he said.

Upon arriving at the academy, Kirk said he felt like he had a real shot at making his dream come a reality.

However, he realized he was unprepared for the level of classes he would be taking. But the staff at the academy helped him through the “difficult transition.”

Kirk, who attended last week’s question-and-answer session with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that unlike McConnell, he isn’t worried about the future of health care.

If doctors in the future earn less than doctors today, it could be good for the industry, Kirk said. If people who were only pursuing the career for the money were no longer attracted to health care, the quality of care would increase, he said.

Nicholasville academy junior Jesse Matherly said he also plans to pursue a career in medicine.

Within the last couple of years, Matherly has developed an interest in neurology because it combines biology and psychology. During his time at the academy, he plans to focus on biology classes to better prepare him for medical school in the future.

Matherly, who also attended McConnell’s session, said although the country may be worried about health care right now, he feels confident about the long term future of the industry.

“I feel that the country can recover from it and learn a lot from it,” he said.