Mesothelioma.com is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 scholarship, Lauren Havens.
This fall, Lauren will be attending Georgetown University School of Medicine. She earned a master’s degree in medical sciences from Boston University in May 2020.
Lauren’s interest in the medical field was sparked by her cancer journey. She was diagnosed with spitzoid melanoma at 16 years old. In her essay, Lauren describes feeling abandoned, bare and exposed by the diagnosis. This hardship enabled her to develop a deeper understanding of joy and persistence.
Following her diagnosis, Lauren underwent a lymph node biopsy to ensure the cancer had not spread. Although the biopsy was negative, she experienced a rare complication from the procedure. Lauren suffered damage to the lymphatic system in her right leg. The damage caused lymphedema (swelling), which still impacts her life today.
“Shimmying my compression sleeve on each morning with an impressive ease over seven years later…serves as a reminder for me to live presently and graciously,” Lauren said, “[A] reminder of my resilience.”
Lauren uses everyday tools to overcome obstacles caused by the biopsy complication. For example, gardening gloves help her grip the compression sleeve each morning. She used this resourcefulness later when working with school-aged children.
Giving Back Paves the Way for Medical School
Lauren’s cancer diagnosis was the catalyst for her desire to become a doctor. A service placement solidified her decision.
While at Boston College, Lauren mentored students at nearby Saint Columbkille Partnership School. She worked with students in fifth through eighth grade, one of which was often resistant to her help. Through persistence, she was able to break down the barriers and engage with him in a productive way.
“In committing to show up and being present, I learned that ‘success’ could not always be measured by a letter grade on an assignment,” she said. “More often, I found it in the slow transformation that one may just miss if not paying close enough attention.”
She hopes to use the same mentality when working with patients.
“[I]t is my diligence that will not only allow me to be successful in the pursuit of knowledge in medical school and as a physician,” Lauren said, “but will help me to be attentive to the needs of my patients.”
As she prepares to begin her medical school career, Lauren says she plans to treat the entire patient. The holistic approach was valuable while working with school children. She recalls times where non-academic moments, such as tossing a football, were the most valuable. These interactions created openness and trust, which strengthened the professional relationship.
“It is my compassion for others that will allow me to establish meaningful relationships and provide care for the entire person,” Lauren said of her patient care goals.
Clinical Experience Combined With Compassion
In addition to honing her compassionate side in her service placement, Lauren has worked in clinical settings. While in graduate school, Lauren was a clinical research assistant in the Breast Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. She worked on the care team for newly diagnosed and followup patients. In this role, she was able to use her own cancer experience to empathize with the patients.
The emotional health aspect of cancer care is not lost on Lauren. While navigating her diagnosis and treatment, she experienced the benefit of caring physicians. She recalls doctors who talked to her about her passions outside of the hospital setting.
“[T]hey revealed their care for who I am outside of the office—a dancer, a hiker, a student and now a rising medical school student,” she said. “It was in these moments of compassion that my physicians revealed to me the importance of the physician in empowering patients.”
Lauren doesn’t know what area of medicine she’ll specialize in yet hopes to care for patients on the margins of society.
“It is my diligence, attentiveness and capacity to feel and express empathy that will allow me to work tirelessly as a physician,” she said. “I hope to heal and affirm the needs of patients and thereby empower them to live in the light of their own strength, as I have lived in mine.”
Applications for the Mesothelioma.com Scholarship for 2021 are now open. If you have had cancer or a loved one faced a cancer diagnosis, apply for a chance to win $4,000 toward your college education. The deadline for the 2021 scholarship is March 31, 2021.