In June of 2011, Caitlyn Gillespie had a spinal fusion to fix the curvature of her spine due to scoliosis. She was terrified and in pain, but Gillespie remembers one nurse who went above and beyond to make sure she was recovering and was as comfortable as she could be.
“She made me feel secure with my scar,” Gillespie explained. “We formed a deep connection because we both were spinal fusion patients. 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 healthcare. Gillespie wants to make an impact and change someone’s life, too.
Gillespie, a Master of Public Health student studying 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. Gillespie earned her bachelor’s in biology and psychology from Fisk University.
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 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 noted. “My overall career goal is to help underserved communities any way I can.”