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Youth Spotlight: Ferris student set to pursue medical career

UPDATED: Fri., March 2, 2018

Morgan McGovern, a senior at Ferris High School, has expressed a love for science. She hasn’t settled on a college yet but likes Seattle Pacific University. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Morgan McGovern, a senior at Ferris High School, has expressed a love for science. She hasn’t settled on a college yet but likes Seattle Pacific University. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Morgan McGovern’s passion for studying science began in elementary school.

She credits the Odyssey gifted learning program within Spokane Public Schools with putting her on course to take challenging AP classes at Ferris High School. And now she’s a 17-year-old senior with plans to embark on a career in the medical field.

McGovern participates in the Project Lead the Way biomedical science program, which provides about 477 students at Ferris, Lewis and Clark and Rogers high schools with lab time, research, mentoring and connections to the medical field.

Students learn through real-world cases and work with the same tools used by professionals. They learn how to investigate, prevent, diagnose and treat a disease in one course, while their final course has them using skills learned in the program to design solutions for health challenges.

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“With the biomed classes, we’ve been able to do a bunch of different labs, which we normally wouldn’t be able to do until later in our college careers,” McGovern said. “Especially with fourth year biomed – we get to do our own experiments – and we do those throughout the year.”

McGovern, for the past year and a half, has been volunteering in the patient transport department on Friday nights at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.

“I thought working around the hospital, I’d get to see if that’s an environment I’d want to work in and see if any of the different jobs interest me,” she said. “I found out the hospital is kind of a cool place.”

McGovern wants to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist or medical examiner, but would also like to do medical research. She was diagnosed with arthritis in 2016, which also sparked interest in pursuing a career in the medical field to help find a genetic cure.

“My mom has arthritis and she’s been able to maintain a good quality of living,” she said. “I was nervous about it and she was too, but she helped me through everything and to change my lifestyle to make sure I could deal with it.”

Despite being diagnosed with arthritis, McGovern remains positive and continues working towards furthering her education, said Hilary Severn, McGovern’s mother.

“She’s just an extremely hard worker. If she has a problem or a question, she’s not afraid to ask for help, but can also figure things out for herself,” Severn said. “She’s really pushed above and beyond. She’s never been one to be passive about her education. She was really determined to take high-level classes, do extra work and do it to the best of her ability.”

Dawn Hilsendeger is a college preparatory adviser for the College Success Foundation at Ferris High School, which helps connect low-income students in Washington state to college programs and scholarships. Hilsendeger has been helping McGovern over the past year plan for college.

McGovern was a finalist for the prestigious QuestBridge Scholarship, which provides students with a full four-year $200,000 scholarship to an Ivy League school.

Although McGovern didn’t receive the scholarship, she applied to five colleges and received two acceptance letters, including one from Seattle Pacific University – her top choice.

“I like how they have smaller classes, so it will be more one-on-one with teachers and they have a good science program also,” McGovern said. “At Seattle Pacific, I’ll be able to do research and stuff.”

McGovern is taking three AP classes this year in chemistry, calculus and history. She’s also president of the Spanish Honor Society and tutors kids in the ICAN Program – a course recovery program for students to gain skills to promote to the next grade level.

“I like that I can help people with the things that I’m good at,” she said. “A lot of them struggle with just the way teachers teach (the subject) and having someone else explain it in a different way helps them out a lot.”

McGovern will continue applying for scholarships and plans to obtain a summer job before attending college.

Hilsendeger said because McGovern works hard and cares a lot about people, those traits will benefit her going into the healthcare field.

“Whatever school she chooses, she’ll achieve what she wants,” she said. “I’m pretty confident she’ll do great things.”

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