Source: Sherman Publications

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OHS senior heading for pharmacy school

by CJ Carnacchio

April 30, 2014

Only 36 high school seniors from around the country received contingent admission offers from the University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

And Oxford High School senior Kathryn Flanagan is one of them.

"It's such an honor," she said. "You work so hard in high school that you wonder if this is ever going to pay off. Then you get something like this. I'm really glad that I did things the way I did and I wouldn't go back and change anything about my high school experience."

Flanagan has a 4.1 grade point average and is set to graduate fourth in her class next month.

Contingent admission allows academically exceptional freshmen to secure a seat in the professional division college's competitive pharmacy and pharmaceutical science programs, which students enter during their junior year of college.

Basically, as long as Flanagan maintains a cumulative 3.5 GPA in college, as well as a 3.5 GPA in her science courses, she has a seat waiting for her in the pharmacy college.

"It offers a sense of security," she said. "I know I'll be able to get the degree that I want."

Flanagan plans to be at the University of Toledo for six years, obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences after four years, then staying for another two to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy.

"I'm thrilled," she said. "I cannot wait to start."

When she graduates, don't look for Flanagan behind the counter of a local drug store.

"I want to go into research," she said.

Her motivation to enter the pharmaceutical field came from an illness she suffered during her sophomore year at OHS.

It took nine months and 26 different doctors to diagnose Flanagan with gastroparesis, a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine.

"I couldn't digest food at all. It kind of took the fun out of eating," she said. "I lost like 25 pounds. It was a nightmare. It was scary. I was sickly-looking."

During her illness, Flanagan was struck by the fact that although she was seeing so many different doctors, they always sent her to the same pharmacist.

"How does one person know so much about every single field?" she said. "Being the science and math nerd that I am, I was like, 'Huh, I wonder if I can do that? I want to know everything in the medical field.'"

After visiting a few pharmacy camps at universities where she did lab work and sat in on classes, Flanagan discovered her passion.

After she graduates college and before she enters the workforce, Flanagan plans to travel with the World Health Organization, helping people in developing nations by determining what medicines they need and dispensing them.

"It's like Doctors Without Borders," she said.

Flanagan was inspired to do this by her involvement in Project People, a summer program she participates in as part of her youth group at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion. The program gives young people the chance to help folks in the community by doing things such as rebuilding roofs and painting houses.

"Giving back to the community and serving others it's the most rewarding week of my summer vacation," Flanagan said.

After serving with the WHO, she wants to work in a hospital, while pursuing her doctorate in neuroscience and neurological disorders. She's really passionate about helping to develop drugs to treat and cure degenerative brain disorders.

"It's extremely interesting to me," she said.

Part of the reason she chose this area is because her uncle is neuro-research scientist and her maternal grandmother survived a brain tumor.

Flanagan is amazed by her grandmother's story.

In 1973, at the age of 29, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After three surgeries, she was given about five years to live. Well, grandma just celebrated her 70th birthday this year.

"She's a walking miracle," Flanagan said. "The doctor that told her she was going to die in five years is dead now."

Besides having a top-notch pharmacy program, there's another reason Flanagan is excited to attend the University of Toledo.

"They have a ballroom dance team and I'm a ballroom dancer," she said. "This place is just perfect."

Although she's danced since the age of 4, Flanagan didn't get into ballroom dancing until about two-and-a-half years ago. After years of doing tap, ballet, jazz and hip-hop, she wanted to do something different.

She enjoys the ABC television show "Dancing with the Stars" and decided to give competitive ballroom dancing a whirl. She started dancing at Elegance in Motion, a ballroom dance studio in Orion Township.

Flanagan is apparently a natural because last year she had 23 first-place finishes at a state ballroom dance competition, plus 21 first places and two second places at a national competition.

She represents Elegance in Motion at these competitions.

"They like having me there," she said.

Her favorite dance is the tango. "It's the one you can put the most character into."

Flanagan wished to thank her parents, Melissa and John, for all their love and support, which played a major role in her academic success.

"The only reason I got here is thanks to my parents," she said. "I know they definitely don't get enough thanks."