Sarah Schoenhals '10 admits it was "pretty random" that she ended up at Queens University of Charlotte. She's not even sure how she first got on the mailing list; she was living in Oregon at the time. Yet, when a soccer coach followed up with her in April of her senior year of high school, she and her mother decided to fly out and visit.
"I felt at home the minute I got there. There was nothing not to like," Schoenhals said. So, she decided to "take the chance" and go to school 3,000 miles away from home.
"It’s really nice to be able to contact them and still be able to ask for advice three years after graduating."
- Schonehals on the support of Queens faculty
Now, three years later, she credits Queens faculty and friends - actually, she calls them her "family" - with giving her the advice, support, and resources she needed to accomplish the next step in her long-term goal to be a doctor. She's recently been accepted into the University of Utah's Medical School, class of 2017. "When I interviewed there, they were very excited about my diverse background and experiences."
For her part, Schoenhals is excited about the University of Utah's international outreach program and global health department. In fact, she's going to Ghana this month to tag along with Utah faculty who run an ophthalmology clinic that does cataract surgery for children.
Evidence of empathy
Her long-term goal is to get involved with international medicine. "I love to travel, and I would love to be able to do something really useful when I travel," she said. Medicine makes sense, because, "I've grown up with everything I've ever needed. But, that's not the case for the majority of people in the world, and I feel like health care is something everyone in the world should be afforded."
Celebrating her acceptance to med school in an email to coaches and faculty advisors, she wrote, "Every teacher, coach, and faculty member I've known at Queens has helped me get to this point."
Dr. Michele Shaul, Schoenhals' Spanish professor, welcomed the news. "She is bright, always motivated and exceptionally nice and caring," Shaul said. "She will be a marvelous doctor because she is analytical and can connect disparate information to find a creative solution. Her empathy will make her particularly loved by her patients."
An atypical route
Yet, Schoenhals acknowledges the news may come as a surprise to others. Although everyone who knew her at Queens, where she was a biochemistry major, would have known she wanted to be a doctor, she took an untraditional route after graduation.
The soccer-playing scholar, who organized her own junior year abroad at Oxford University with the help of Core professor Dr. Charles Reed and advisor Dr. Andy Tucker, decided after graduation to go to work wrangling horses. Yes, you read that right.
She'd always wanted to live in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. So, that's where she moved after graduation, when she was feeling a little "burned out" on school and worried she wasn't 100 percent committed to med school any longer.
Taking the time off helped her regain her enthusiasm for her dream, she said. "I am definitely not the same person I was."
Yet she remains the confident woman who struck out on her own to wrangle horses, lead trail rides, ski Jackson Hole trails in the off-season and build a home in a new community. That willingness to take chances was developed at Queens, Schoenhals said. "I feel a lot more self-sufficient and prepared to take things on," she said. "There were always a lot of opportunities...[but] you always had to search and create your own path."
Living where she does, people haven't always heard of Queens. Yet, she said, she is quick to tell others: "They trained me to be well educated and to really work for what I wanted."