COOKEVILLE – Drive, determination and a family legacy led one Tennessee Tech University student on her journey from a community college graduate, to Tech graduate, to Tech employee, to medical school student.
Kaitlyn Lee Daugherty, a ‘21 biology major with a concentration in health sciences from Crossville, officially started her journey at Roane State Community College then transferred to Tech where she completed her degree.
She then took the Medical College Admission Test, applied to medical school, and got a job in the admissions office at Tech while awaiting the results. She got admitted to medical school for this fall at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.
Unofficially, Daugherty began her journey when she was in eighth grade, she knew then she wanted to be doctor. It was what she knew, her father is a primary care physician, her mother a nurse. One older brother became a pharmacist, another just graduated dental school.
Daugherty started medical school August 1, but did a precursor to their anatomy course that the medical school did in the month of July. It included a semesters dissection and allowed her to have no other classes during that time and she could concentrate on those labs.
Although she knew for years she wanted to be a doctor, she does not want to narrow her field of medicine down just yet saying that she wants to keep her options open. She likes the specialty of gastroenterology, because that is one that she has shadowed the most, and the specialty of ear, nose and throat interest her as well.
“At one point I said I wanted to be a teacher and probably a firefighter or some crazy thing like normal children,” Daugherty said.
That changed in eighth grade when she decided she wanted to be a doctor. All through high school she had the mindset that this what she was going to do, this is what needs to be done, and this is how she was going to do it.
Daugherty knows the dedication it takes to be a doctor, the hours and the emotional aspects. This this is not something out of left field for her, she’s going into it with her “eyes wide open.”
“I’m getting into it in a different time,” Daugherty said.
Technological advances will make Daugherty’s journey in medical school and her future as a doctor very different from her fathers.
“There is a huge shortage in primary care physicians. That is one area I know I don’t want to go into. I want to help anywhere that I can, but because of the shortage, a lot of those primary care doctors are being overworked,” Daugherty said. “While I’m going into this to help others, I do have to help myself.”
Daugherty said Tech has prepared her for the next step in her career regarding going into medical school by incorporating all of the critical thinking and linking together all the classes. It prepared her by giving her the base knowledge she needed to succeed.
“I always tell students that if you’re expecting whatever college you go to, to fully prepare you for the MCAT Medical College Admissions Test. You’re going to be let down regardless of where you go, because the classes I’m taking here are kind of base knowledge for that exam,” Daugherty said.
She said she felt supported by the pre-professional program at Tech. An advisor helped her create a timeline for when she should apply to medical school, when she should take the MCAT, shadowing hours and all things that needed attention. She had two advisors, one for her major, and one for the pre-professional program to help her for life after college.
“Even after I graduated, they were great about reaching out, asking where are you right now? Have you heard anything yet?” Daugherty said.
Daugherty fits the bill of Tech’s motto of its students as bold, fearless, confident and kind. Bold and fearless come are exhibited in the undertaking of the time, money, physical and emotional toll it takes to attend medical school.
“You have these exams that you have to take along the way and passing those or not passing those will terminate your time, and then you can find someplace else to start over,” Daugherty said.
The kindness is exhibited in Daugherty’s desire to help others. First as an admissions counselor helping prospective students, and then in her desire to be doctor.
She said one has to be confident in oneself. Confident in your own academic abilities, both physical and mental, and confident enough to know when to put your mental health and physical health above school also when it comes down to it.
“But also knowing that you’re a student and being a professional student requires a lot out of you,” Daugherty said.
She is confident in the foundation that has been laid first at RSCC, then at Tech.
“You have to be confident in the knowledge you know, specific knowledge, but you also have to be confident in what got you there, to be confident and know I can do things that I’ve never learned yet.” Daugherty said.
She said her time at RSCC allowed her to mature and grow so that when she came to Tech, she was ready to undertake the required specialty courses she needed to complete her degree.
Daugherty’s brother did the same pre-professional track, the same program, and had the same advisor. She said her brother felt very prepared by Tech for his future career and she trusted his opinion.
“I knew there’s a really good professional program here, I’d heard about it.” Daugherty said.
Daugherty was used to being busy, so she was ready for the medical school discipline. In May of 2021 she graduated college, got married, moved from a house with four girls into one with her new husband and that June started a new job as an admissions counselor at Tech.
In that role she recruited high school students in Middle Tennessee where she covered all the counties excluding the five counties of greater Nashville and Murfreesboro. She told students about the many opportunities at Tech, and higher education in general.
“I just want them to go to college and pick a place. If it’s here, that’s great, if it’s not, that’s good,” Daugherty said.
She said her favorite thing about being an admissions counselor is that no two days looked the same.
“It’s wild and it’s busy and everybody I worked with is very energetic, it’s not just sitting at a desk all day, every day. I got to move around and make a difference,” Daugherty said.
As Daugherty was a recent graduate, she was able to provide a unique perspective to the prospective students she came into contact with and speak with experience. She was talking about things to prospective students that would still be happening. The people and events would still be on campus and still be relevant.
As an admissions counselor she told students that even though grades are going to be a lot of what gets one into whatever profession, they are not the only thing. She encouraged students to get involved in clubs and meet other students trying to do the same thing.
“See them as your comrades and not competition,” Daugherty said. “Ultimately, we’re competing for the same seat right, but we’re going to have a lot more fun competing for that seat.”