Student Spotlight: Caitlyn Gillespie

Caitlyn Gillespie

Class Year: 2023

Program Major: Master of Public Health

In June 2011, Caitlyn Gillespie had a spinal fusion to fix the curvature of her spine due to scoliosis. Though she was terrified and in pain, Gillespie remembers one nurse—also a spinal fusion patient—who went above and beyond to make sure she was recovering and as comfortable as she could be. 

“She made me feel secure with my scar,” Gillespie said. “Anything I needed, she provided.”

That nurse’s support and love for her job resonated with Gillespie long after her hospital stay—and it fueled her passion for health care.

Gillespie, an alumna of Fisk University and now a Master of Public Health student at Case Western Reserve University, is the first (and, to date, only) School of Medicine graduate student who qualified for the North Star Award. The award is open to students who meet discipline-based qualifications and matriculate from one of CWRU’s partner Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) institutions.

The North Star Award provides a waiver for application fees and at least a 30% tuition award from the Office of the Provost. In addition, North Star Award recipients join a community of peers and colleagues who support one another and grow together in their understanding and journey toward contribution to a just and thriving world.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Provost [Ben] Vinson during my summer program at Case Western Reserve,” said Gillespie. “I appreciate the provost and his office investing in my and others' futures. By reducing some of my financial burdens, it allows me to focus on my studies and become an agent of change in the world.”

After earning her master’s, Gillespie hopes to enroll in a physician assistant program. 

“I am open to many options directly tied to my public health degree program,” she said. “My overall career goal is to help underserved communities in any way I can.”

Caitlyn Gillespie, pictured above, on the campus of her alma mater, Fisk University.