2024 Mesothelioma Scholarship Winner: Michaela Gusman

headshot of scholarship winner

We are proud to announce this year’s Scholarship winner, Michaela “Mickie” Gusman. Congratulations!

Mickie is a standout student, volunteer and advocate for those less fortunate. She is currently in the fifth year of her clinical psychology PhD program at Arizona State University. And as a cancer survivor, it’s clear where she gets her drive.

Resilience Runs in Her Family

Mickie has been in remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for 15 years. She was diagnosed in her sophomore year of high school, but her family was well prepared to fight it along with her. Her father had battled the same cancer in his youth, making them “cancer buddies.”

But they weren’t the only two in the family to overcome hardship. Mickie’s mother and sister live with Crohn’s disease, and her grandparents survived the Holocaust. With a lineage like this, Mickie attributes her resilience to her family.

Her friends were also supportive, often delivering blankets and games to help her distract herself during treatments. And her twin brother played an important role in reminding her that she wasn’t alone. Mickie also told a touching story about removing her wig at sleepaway camp for the first time. The next morning, she woke up to find 50 fellow campers wearing headscarves in solidarity.

When she recovered from cancer, it left her with chronic fatigue and limited lung capacity. She remains at a high risk of secondary cancers, seeing more than 7 specialists a year. In her application, she discussed the challenge of ongoing cancer testing and fear of recurrence.

But she doesn’t let it stop her, writing: “I rely on the same narratives of resilience from my family – and the narrative I consequently built for myself – in order to give kindness back to my community.”

Paying It Forward

After receiving so much support from loved ones, Mickie devoted herself to paying it forward. She recognized the importance of mental health in her own recovery, and this led her to pursue a career supporting others going through hard times.

Mickie began her PhD in clinical psychology to understand mechanisms of resilience better. Inspired by her past, Mickie researches how individuals experience trauma — and how surrounding communities can help them overcome it.

Since surviving cancer, Mickie has helped people from many walks of life. She’s provided therapy to child survivors of abuse and worked with mothers exposed to violence. She’s helped refugees who have been displaced, separated from their families and subjected to violence and torture. She spends her weekends as a foster youth mentor and, during the week, supports children and teens in the hospital experiencing severe mental illness.

Her faculty mentor praised her advocacy for those who are disenfranchised in her work, writing, “Her selfless dedication to lifting and advocating for others is unyielding.” Reading through her extensive resume, it’s clear just how true that is.

Mickie has given mental health presentations to local high schools and hospital employees. Through collaboration with hospitals across the country, she helped distribute treatment guidelines for intersex patients and ran support groups for families with intersex children.

Her research and clinical training also help her to support and provide therapy for gender, sexual and ethnic/racial minorities more knowledgeably. At school, she fights for equity and diversity regarding race and disability rights. She has organized support groups for her peers and mentored first-generation undergraduate students. She currently collaborates with colleagues in the public health sector to create a “playbook” for building trauma-informed communities among mental health professionals.

She is a pillar of support, both on and off campus. Her efforts inspire everyone around her to work towards a better tomorrow.

A Bright Future Ahead

Thanks to her stellar application, Mickie has received $4,000 for university expenses. celebrates her strength, perseverance and dedication to paying it forward. We are not the first to recognize her brilliance. Throughout her academic career, Mickie has received more than a dozen academic awards, grants and other recognitions. With this support, she hopes to continue making a difference for others.

Her mentor wrote, “I have seen firsthand how her cancer survivorship motivates each of these acts of kindness… I have no doubt … Mickie [will] have an inevitably far-reaching impact in and beyond the field of psychology.”

“Having cancer during my adolescent years not only led me to appreciate the beauty of kindness around me, but – fifteen years later – also necessitated that I advance the scientific understanding of resilience in a way that will protect my patients, my community, and future survivors from adversity.”

Mickie Gusman

We cannot wait to hear more stories of what she will do with her degree.

Applications for the Scholarship for 2025 are open now. If you or a loved one have faced a cancer diagnosis, apply for a chance to win $4,000 toward your college education. The deadline for the 2025 scholarship is March 31, 2025.