It's a 6-hour drive through the Appalachian Mountains to Pittsburgh from Roanoke, Virginia, where Kelsey Paxton graduated from high school.
That long road to Robert Morris University put Kelsey in the right place for her life's journey as a doctor. It also set her up to cross an ocean and ride horses in Ireland.
First, there was an RMU letter in the mail, one she had been anxiously awaiting. She came home from school to discover her mom had opened it first. "She was like, 'Oh my gosh, you got the scholarship!'" Kelsey remembers. "I didn’t get to break it to my family because she had already done it at that point. But it was still fun."
Kelsey was challenged as a honors biology pre-med student. But friendly professors welcomed her frequent visits to their office hours. "In high school, when they talk about college, they tell you that if you go to a big school your professors might not know your name and things like that," she says. "But it was a really great environment here."
Staying on top of studies still left time for Kelsey to get involved with theater performances and the RMU dance team. She also spent a semester abroad at the University of Limerick, where her horseback riding class counted as animal behavior study credit toward her degree.
Through pre-med club, Kelsey got to network with Pittsburgh doctors. One of them invited her to do a summer internship at UPMC, assisting with medical research on polycystic ovary syndrome. Kelsey even got to shadow the doctor on her rounds with patients.
Thanks to that and similar experiences — and to strong prep classes for the MCAT exams — Kelsey was accepted to medical school when she graduated. Now she's in her first year, with plans to become a pediatric otolaryngologist.
"I do think that Robert Morris was a good place for me," she says. "It was a good fit."