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Stagg student is medical-minded

CarsSmith plans attend an Ivy League school. | Supplied phoby Laurel DeGonia

Carson Smith plans to attend an Ivy League school. | Supplied photo by Laurel DeGonia

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Updated: August 18, 2014 2:11AM



Carson Smith, a senior-to-be at Stagg High School in Palos Hills, seems to excel at everything she tries.

She has her sights set on attending an Ivy League college next year. Meanwhile, she’s busy adding credentials to her resume and helping people at the same time.

For the last two years, Smith, 17, has participated in a health sciences internship at Harvard University.

Two years ago, she contacted the Harvard School of Public Health and let them know that she was interested in medical research. That initiative earned her an invitation to come to Harvard for a three-week internship last June working in the epidemiology department.

“Our research looked at male medical professionals and whether their chances of getting prostate cancer was higher than the average male,” Smith said.

“I’m really interested not just in working with medicine but helping people in general, so I really loved how people in research are really helping a lot of people at once with a really big program,” she said.

She repeated the experience this year when she spent four weeks in June working in the epidemiology department.

“I researched studies relating to racial disparities in prostate cancer,” Smith said. “The prostate cancer research group is looking to start a new study by analyzing cohorts and the lower survival rate of African-American men from prostate cancer-specific mortality. Researching old studies, part of my job, aids in designing the new study model.”

She also aided the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study by logging tissue samples and contacting medical facilities in order to obtain these samples.

“While last year I only obtained a basic understanding of prostate cancer research, this year I was able to get a more detailed look at the research process and have a more influential role in this process. I even had the chance to create my own abstract,” Smith said. “I loved the experience, but in the future, I’d rather work more with the actual patients. I’d rather work for people and be a doctor who can help with people going through not just the physical trauma but the emotional part, too.”

She had no sooner returned home when she packed her bags and left for Dartmouth College, where she attended College Horizons, a Native American writing and college preparation program to which she was accepted.

In addition, she regularly visits the Czech Republic during the summers to teach English to children. She recently returned from her third trip, which is organized through the youth group at her church, Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park.

“They only speak Czech, so it is very hard for them to learn English. We have a great relationship with these kids,” she said.

At school, she has a grade-point average of 4.81 and participates in varsity cross country, varsity track, mathletes, National Honor Society, sports med club and Spanish Honor Society, and she volunteers with the St. Baldrick’s committee.

With this resume, she is determined to go to the college of her choice, whether it be an Ivy League school or one of her other choices, including Northwestern University, Georgetown University, the University of Illinois or the University of Chicago.

“I have never seen a more dedicated student,” Stagg Associate Principal Deb Baker said. “She has a big heart and truly enjoys everything she does.

“Carson doesn’t participate in all of her activities to fill up her transcript. She truly cares and wants to make a difference. Carson exhibits a level of maturity for a junior in high school that is unmatched.”

Smith, who is part Native American and has a Native American card for the Choctaw Tribe in Oklahoma, ultimately hopes to someday work in the medical field in a Native American community.

The daughter of Robert and Michelle Smith, of Palos Park, she said her father is her mentor.

“My dad, because he is a very patient person and he thinks things through,” she said. “He has certain characteristics that I’d like to achieve and he supported himself through college without a lot of family support, which is very inspiring. He’s a great father, very helpful and caring, and he inspired me to have a stronger relationship with God. So in all of those aspects he has contributed to the person I am today. He’s helping me get to where I want to be.

“My parents are really good at focusing me on my goals and being there for support, but more important, I want to have a real successful future and I know the benefits I will have if I give my all to school. I have good teachers, really good family and my youth group.”



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