February 08, 2018
Area(s) of Interest: Medical School Physician Leadership
Medical student Kayla Sheehan (right) received the 2017 Medical Student Scholarship from SSVMS.
Second year medical student, Kayla Sheehan, was recently awarded the 2017 Medical Student Scholarship from the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (SSVMS) for her academic accomplishments.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Woodland, Sheehan received her bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Integrative Biology and Music. After graduating, she worked as a lab manager at the University of California, San Francisco, before heading to Georgetown to earn her master’s in physiology. She is now in her second year of medical school at California Northstate University (CNU).
Entering the medical field was never a question for Sheehan. After watching her mother work as a home health nurse her whole childhood, she knew it was the field she wanted to study. “Not only is she a fantastic nurse who dedicates herself to her patients… the way she [worked with them] was, and still is, a hands-on art.”
Before starting medical school, Sheehan volunteered at a local hospice. Despite the fact she wasn’t allowed to do anything medically related, she learned that it was not always necessary to help patients heal. She discovered that what had begun as a way to test her ability to handle grief, had turned into a calling for palliative care.
“It’s a field that uses communication, compassion and teamwork to improve people's quality of life,” says Sheehan. “I love the idea of seeing patients in all stages of life, of having the opportunity to cultivate relationships with my patients over many years, of really knowing who they are and working with them as their goals evolve.”
Studying at CNU, Sheehan has found herself surrounded with a brilliant, compassionate, and capable community who motivate her to continually aim higher and work harder. She founded CNU’s Hospice and Palliative Medicine Student Interest Group, which has over 50 active members and is still expanding. “I hope that in 10 years I can come back to see it continuing to thrive,” she says.
Inspired daily by her classmates, Sheehan believes the next generation has a great deal of good to offer. CNU provides an elective course called “The Healer’s Art,” which teaches medical students how to deal with grief and loss, ways to bring your whole self to encounters with patients, and the human side of medicine.
“I think for many years, these ‘soft’ skills were looked down upon or viewed as inferior, but I think my generation sees them as an integral part to being a well-rounded physician.” Sheehan will be using the scholarship awarded to her to help pay for her summer research and to progress in her journey through medical school.
“I know the hardest years are yet to come for me, but knowing I have this network of physicians who believe in me and support me—how could I ever fail?”