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Scholarship Finalists 2019

1. Cody McCasland: My Physical Therapists

When I was born, I was born 6 weeks early with a spinal cord malformation (sacral agenesis). My parents were told I was not going to make it through the night and to prepare to say goodbye to me. But because of my parents' support and with the help of some amazing doctors, I made it through the night. As the years went on, I had many surgeries for GI, Back, and orthopedic issues. I have had 37 surgeries as of the end of 2019 and a plethora of hospital stays with them. Throughout all of the surgeries, I have made a great relationship with many of my doctors, one of them being Dr. Amy Hogge. Dr. Hogge did a majority of my anesthesia for my surgeries. Dr. Hogge would always carry me back to the OR herself, keep me calm by talking to me and cracking jokes, and would always let me take home medical equipment such as anesthesia masks and tubing, IV tubing, and many other items. This inspired me to play doctor on the dog and I would “sedate” the dog and perform a surgery on her. I have since been able to shadow her in the OR and see how compassionate she is with every patient and always tries her best to keep them calm and feel safe in what can easily be the most stressful and scariest experience for the child. I want to go into Pediatric Anesthesia and follow in Dr. Hogge’s footsteps and be able to provide the same type of care as her to kids going into surgery.


People also helped me in life by teaching me how to walk. I had my legs amputated at 15 months old, when I was 17 months old, I received my first pair of prosthetic legs. Whether it was my prosthetist or physical therapist, it took a whole team to help me learn how to walk. This encouraged me over the years to want to go into medicine so I can help others and set an
example of how helping others makes their lives better.

2. Natra Tabit: The Card from Heather

Sometimes there are not enough words to explain the emotions that you feel. The moment I received this card in the mail from my dear friend Heather, that was one of those moments. Heather and I crossed paths when our children were battling leukemia together. Her son Jace, was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of WI for over six months (264 days total) when my daughter Nora joined in, unwillingly, on this cancer journey. Both Jace and Nora got to go home and were on the road to healing, although still battling cancer together.

Months pass and her son relapses and my daughter was being admitted to the hospital for a life-saving bone marrow transplant after seven months of failed chemotherapy. Money was raised for her family, and she shared some with mine. Not just “some”, but inside this card I received from her was a check for one thousand dollars. Out of all the kind things I have experienced in my life, this selfless act is my favorite and something I will hold onto forever. It has taught me so much, but most importantly inspired me to help others no matter what I am going through myself. Love and kindness make this world a much more beautiful place, especially in moments of hardship.

Her son is now an angel and he gained his wings in May of 2018. Jace is forever four years old.

3. Sophie Holtom: Will Mommy be Okay?

When I was eight and my mom was in her third trimester with my sister, she had a dizzy spell and fainted. My brother and I ran and got the neighbors, who called 911. When the paramedics arrived, they were extremely kind and patient to my brother and me as they asked us what had happened and reassured us that both our mother and the baby would be okay. This is a depiction of a moment I’ll never forget, especially with a healthy nine-year-old sister as a reminder of that day. I will always be incredibly grateful for the response team’s care and compassion.

4. Donavan King: You Can Do It

Someone wrote this sticky note. I may never know who, but their random act of kindness continues to inspire me. When I received this sticky note, I was having an extremely rough day. I woke up late and feeling sick. I had to skip breakfast to make it to class on time, and I was just not in a great place mentally or emotionally.

After my biology class and my psychology class, I realized I had two more classes to attend. I was sick, hungry, tired, and emotional. I needed food and rest desperately. Remembering that I could use my dining plan to buy snacks, I took a detour to the Mountainlair to get food. This much needed detour made late for chemistry, I speed walked to the chemistry building, Clark Hall. While I was walking to Clark Hall, I began to think thoughts such as “how am I supposed to become a doctor when I can’t get my life together”. Once I arrived at Clark Hall, I was greeted by this sticky note. This singular sticky note changed my attitude, not only that day, but also for the rest of the semester. I became motivated to push through my chemistry and math classes that day, and to continue striving for the best in all my classes for the rest of the semester. To whoever wrote the sticky note, thank you. Your random act of kindness motivated and inspired me to keep pushing through, at one of my lowest points this semester, and I appreciate it greatly. I only hope that as a physician, I can impact someone in such a way you did for me.

5. Haley Cox: My Foster Brother

6. Shawn Jensen: The Love of My Life

On October 29th, 2011 I married the love of my life, Jesse, in a small town where he grew up in Wisconsin. It was only two months later when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at a rare young age. From the moment I called him to tell him the news up until this day almost eight years later, his act of kindness in loving and taking care of me through my life journey is of one that I will never forget. When someone takes their wedding vows and repeats the words “…I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,” you never stop to think what this could truly look like. Jesse dropped everything to be by my side during the first few months of my diagnosis. He was there holding my hand during the multiple doctor’s appointments, imaging tests, laboratory blood tests, decision-making, surgeries, test results, and so much more. The person who wiped my tears, held my hand, changed my blood-filled drains, all with unwavering love, support, and kindness. I never once asked him to be there and yet there he was day after day.

Jesse does not have a medical background so being immersed in this situation I know was overwhelming. Watching your new bride be wheeled away into an operating room, unsure of what is to come, is something that I can not imagine. Wanting to take away all the bad, the pain, and the fear of the unknown for someone is a large burden to take on. To this day, Jesse continues to be my rock, support, and best friend. I am not sure if he knows how much his kindness and love towards me during this time, inspires me to be a better person.

Mahatma Gandhi stated that “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I am so grateful and lucky to have Jesse as one of these people in my life who is truly selfless and loving in a situation where I hope to never have to return to him. He has never once asked for anything in return during this time, was always there to listen or give advice, and emulates what it means to be devoted.

Thank you for reading a piece of my journey and the person who inspires me to be the best version of myself every day.

7. Kenna Koch: Parker's Match

"Ready, Set... WRESTLE!" were the words that started a middle school wrestling match that I will never forget. The match was between a very skilled and accomplished wrestler from my school and his opponent, Parker. Parker is a young man from a neighboring school that was born with numerous birth defects both mentally and physically. The match would be his first and only match and he happened to be against a fellow wrestler that took his win-loss record very seriously. The crowd of parents and fellow wrestlers watched in anticipation as Parker was helped onto the mat. Parker was beaming of happiness in head gear and a singlet that his fragile body was drowning in. Gunner, the skilled wrestler, got in his stance as Parker made an audible squeal. The ref blew his whistle and I took a deep breath in wondering how the match would play out. Gunner ducked and weaved around a little bit and Parker flailed his arms. Gunner shot in for the take-down and gently pulled Parker on top of himself. It was at that time evident how the match would play out and I remember breathing a sigh of relief as my eyes teared up. Gunner rolled a little from under Parker as to make it look like he was trying to get away. The crowd erupted with applause and cheers. Gunner then laid still and the ref slammed the mat as to signify the pin. Parker had pinned one of the best wrestlers in the tournament. Many people were moved to tears as the ref raised Parker's hand for the win. It was a moment of kindness and compassion that I was so fortunate to witness. Someone recorded the match and the local news stations ran with it. It became a viral story around my rural community in Northeast Iowa. The simple wrestling match between two middle school boys has inspired me on countless occasions since. It was a unselfish act of kindness that I assumed changed Parker's and his family's life forever. The boys are now seniors and Gunner is still a friend of mine. The story still comes up with Facebook memories and people in attendance still talk about it. It taught me that kindness comes in many forms and you never know how a simple gesture can mean the world to someone else. Attached are some photographs that my mother captured on that special day. The photographs give just a glimpse into the joy in that middle school gym and in the heart of Parker.