South Fulton, Tenn.
Mikaela Hardy knows that college life is more than just classrooms – it’s an experience – and she’s here to make it count.
“I enjoy learning. I might be a nerd, but it’s really fun to me to be able to learn. … You’ve got to make the best of (college) while you’re here and I want to make it count,” she said. “This is a really unique time in my life and for everyone else my age… that we kind of get to figure out who we are.”
Hardy, a sophomore from South Fulton, is a member of the UT Martin Pre-Med Scholars Program, an exclusive group of medical school hopefuls chosen in their sophomore years to participate in a hands-on, three-year job shadowing rotation.
“I’ve always had this passion to use my knowledge to better others and to give them peace of mind and make their lives better,” said Hardy, who is majoring in cell and molecular biology. She hasn’t set her heart on a medical specialty yet, preferring instead to try everything before settling into one course. Her experiences as a pre-med scholar are certainly helping to accomplish that.
“We get to shadow different physicians every month, so you get the opportunity to see a little bit of everything,” she said. “You can sit in class all day long and learn all this information, but it doesn’t really add up until you can see how it’s all applied.” Hands-on experience is vital in the medical sciences, and Hardy and her fellow scholars have been able to test-drive the profession before investing eight years in medical school.
“Before you put all the time and effort into becoming a physician, you really want to know, ‘Would this really be something I would enjoy?’” she said. Hardy believes the pre-med scholars program is an integral part of helping students decide if medical school and the medical profession are right for them. Scholars also have a head start on understanding the nuances of the field before being accepted into medical school.
“There’s a lot more to medicine than just being able to diagnose somebody. … You have to keep a straight face because if you freak out or start to sympathize too much, the patient will start to feel the same way. They don’t teach you about that; it’s more something you have to gain experience with over time,” she said. “There’s no way you could write a book about every possible situation, so really the best experience is just to get out there and see it done for yourself.” Hardy has also had the opportunity to learn about behind-the-scenes work at a medical practice, including the business and community relations aspects of the field.
In addition to her efforts in classrooms and clinics, Hardy is a member of the UT Martin cheerleading squad. The cheer squad practices between two and four hours a day, depending on the season, and can spend six or more hours participating in doubleheader home basketball games. They also travel to high-profile away games and got television time in the Mississippi State vs. UT Martin football game in 2014.
Balancing classwork and cheerleading is no easy task, but Mikaela keeps it all together by channeling her academic stress onto the practice court. “I love having an outlet. I can sit and do homework and study all day long, but really I need that release. I need some kind of activity to help me channel all that stress that comes with being so busy. It’s definitely teaching me how to balance my time,” she said. “There’s this constant struggle… but it always works out. I feel like cheerleading is teaching me more than just the physical aspect of it; it’s also mental and spiritual.”
Hardy also holds a leadership position in the UT Martin Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization. “College can be not only fun and exciting, but also very stressful and demanding on you. So that (FCA) is a time that I feel we can all unwind and realize that our purpose is a lot more than just about us and what we’re doing here in college. It’s also about fulfilling what God wants in our lives,” she said.
The total collegiate experience involves balancing the academic, social, spiritual and mental aspects of college life. Whether she's motivating herself in her studies or motivating others at athletic events, Hardy has learned how to balance her busy schedule and make the most of her time at UT Martin.
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