Black Hills State University senior Katie Nielson of Pierre has never been more sure of her calling to be a physician. The biology and chemistry major will attend the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota after graduating from BHSU this week.
“It’s a question you’re asked throughout the medical school application and interview process, ‘why do you want to be a doctor?’ Seeing the selflessness of our healthcare professional and essential workers has encouraged me to follow this path,” says Katie. “The pandemic has given me even more drive to want to help.”
When Katie’s final semester at BHSU moved online due to the pandemic, she says many of her science professors quickly adapted their course materials to help students learn about COIVD-19. She looks forward to continuing her medical education in Vermillion this summer.
Katie’s path to BHSU started with soccer and science. She was part of the first women’s soccer team at BHSU in 2016 and has enjoyed building the foundation of the team all four years of her college career. Equally important to Katie was finding a university with strong academic programs in the sciences.
“Academically and athletically, BHSU gave me all the opportunities to achieve my goals,” says Katie. “I made the right choice in choosing to attend college at BHSU.”
Katie earned the prestigious BHSU Nelson Scholarship for science and math majors. The scholarship awarded Katie $40,000 during her four years of college.
In addition to soccer, Katie also joined the BHSU Health Sciences Student Organization and participated in summer research with two BHSU professors. She worked with Dr. John Dixson and Dr. Dave Bergmann on synthesizing molecules that could be used in new antibiotics.
“Participating in research at BHSU helped prepare me for medical school. It opened my eyes to how hard it is to create medicine, and all the processes medicine goes through before it’s available to the public,” says Katie.
Once or twice a month during college, Katie also volunteered at the Good Shepherd Clinic in Spearfish. She assisted in the patient flow center helping patients sign in and directing them to their next stage of care.
As Katie prepares to attend graduation virtually this week, she says she wants to congratulate her fellow students and friends.
“Realize how much of an achievement you’ve accomplished in graduating from college,” says Katie. “I know the changes this semester have been challenging, but thank your parents, your family, and your friends – all those who’ve been involved in your journey through BHSU.”