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With the assistance of a $3,000 Blavatnik Family Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Air National Guard dependent Alyssa Brown has taken the first steps towards becoming a pediatric pulmonologist. As she finishes up her freshman year at Southern Utah University, Alyssa takes some time to speak about her exciting freshman year and why she is so determined to be a doctor.

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When she was just five years old, Alyssa witnessed her two-year old sister suffer a near-fatal asthma attack while flying from New York to Utah. “Our flight had to be redirected to New Jersey so that she could receive basic medical treatment that was not available on the flight. As we were flying back to Utah, her condition worsened and she stopped breathing four separate times. During this stressful and dangerous time for my sister, I realized that I have asthma as well, along with numerous other people I know, and that we could be in similar situations at any time. It was then that I decided that I wanted to cure asthma so that I would never face the risk of losing my sister, or my father to asthma-related reasons again,” she explains.

The Brown Family

Alyssa is seeking a pre-medicine specialized degree in chemistry and has added minors in biology and anthropology. She mentions, “Undergraduate research, especially projects that I execute on my own with the assistance of a mentor, is critical to my ability of getting into Graduate School in the future.” Diving right in, Alyssa completed a number of research projects this past year including a Biomedical Ethics Survey, ecological diversity of Coal Creek and Rush Lake, and even predatory detection of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. Working with the Dean of Chemistry, Alyssa has already established research projects for next year.

Often times, college serves as the transitional period from childhood to adult life as many students face those unanticipated “sink or swim” moments. Alyssa faced such a challenge when her residence hall was closed during her first midterms. She had to endure the added expense and time of moving while maintaining her grades. She quickly realized that in high-stress situations, she has the strength and resilience to carry on and succeed…invaluable traits of any physician.

Gaining such confidence in herself has inspired Alyssa to become very involved with her local community. She serves as a 4H mentor to sixth graders, works as a Student Teacher and America Reads Tutor, and is Treasurer of the Service Club at SUU. She is also President of the American Sign Language Club, and is a member of both the Anthropology Club and the Research team within the Michael Leavitt Center for Politics.

Alyssa visits beautiful Dubai

Alyssa’s dedication to her academics and community/campus involvement have not gone unnoticed. She was one of five women chosen to represent Utah at the Insight Dubai conference in Dubai, UAE. “It was life-changing,” says Alyssa. “I realized some of the preconceived notions and subconscious stereotypes that I carried and I was able to work on acknowledging and reversing those, while building meaningful and personal relationships with women across the globe. The most monumental thing that I have learned from the conference, I learned when I returned to Utah. It was shocking to hear others talk about my experience and their personal experience, often placing their own biases on the women and other individuals from the region, claiming that they were oppressed and forced to wear the abaya and were forced into their current cultural norms. It was shocking to examine because, having gone there, I realized that I had carried those personal biases, and having talked on a personal level with the women, I have realized how completely ignorant of their situation I was and how I can help to eliminate others’ ignorance by encouraging global relations and communication while spreading my own awareness and information,” she adds.

Having accomplished so much during her freshman year, Alyssa is certainly on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a pediatric pulmonologist. The ThanksUSA team wishes Alyssa continued academic success and we encourage her and all other college-bound military dependents and spouses to apply for the 2012-2013 ThanksUSA Scholarship. Applications are being accepted through May 15th and complete details can be found here. We conclude this week’s Scholarship News with a few words of thanks from Alyssa:

“I know that I can achieve anything if I attempt it wholeheartedly, and having the Blavatnik Family Foundation/ThanksUSA Scholarship has shown me that I am capable of more than I thought, and that I can be appreciative of my accomplishments because I am doing spectacular things at such a young age, and I can only imagine what the future holds.”

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