Seeing a need, graduating senior Kaitlyn Felix studied Spanish to be a better doctor

May 4, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Graduating senior Kaitlyn Felix dreams of becoming a surgeon someday. To help her achieve that goal, however, she didn’t just study health sciences. She studied Spanish at the School of International Letters and Cultures. Kaitlyn Felix Graduating senior Kaitlyn Felix wants to be a surgeon someday, but uses Spanish to help her connect with patients. Download Full Image

“I’ve been a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) since high school,” Felix said. “A lot non-English speakers are your patients. It’s great to have a medical background and a Spanish background. I’ve taken two or three classes that had a Spanish medical language frame.”

Felix has substantial experience in both medicine and Spanish. Spanish is her first language and the language her family speaks at home. Besides working as CNA, she interned with a pediatric surgeon last summer and was her grandfather’s caregiver while he battled cancer and dementia.

Blending the two disciplines made Felix better at both, and prepared her to work, research, study and succeed at ASU.  

“It’s almost like learning another language. Learning the body parts, the tools, the correct way to form a question to a patient. It’s been really interesting and helpful to me as I worked through the medical field all through college,” Felix said.

She has found that speaking Spanish has been especially helpful while practicing medicine in the Southwest, enabling her to connect directly with patients, as opposed to always need a translator. That connection leads to trust, especially dealing with pediatrics.

“It was nice to have to have that language barrier be broken. Obviously they’re there for kind of a scary situation. It was with family, obviously with children most of the time,” Felix recalled. “Their face would light up, like ‘Oh my God, someone speaks Spanish here. That’s great; I’ll know what’s going on.’”

At SILC, as she balanced her health science studies and Spanish minor, she found the faculty responsive, enthusiastic and supportive. She said that all SILC staff “really take the time to get to know their students … they actually seem to care about their work.”

Now applying to medical school, Felix wants a program that gives back to underserved communities. She has found her cultural competence to be a professional benefit and wants a program that expands on it.

“Cultural competency is a big thing where we’re seeing problems in the medical field,” Felix said. “Understanding culture, understanding language barriers … it might increase lifestyle and medical advice. I think it’s important to be interdisciplinary … every case is different.”

SILC advisers would help Felix plan out her semesters. This meant focusing on medical classes at one point, then getting ahead in language classes when she had class openings. Felix accomplished all this while also holding down a job.

Felix said that while balancing the two programs was challenging, she succeeded by reminding herself that she was not just working, but working toward something.

“There’d be late nights, super early mornings, lack of sleep, lack of food, but it’s one more day closer to medical school, one more day closer to becoming a doctor, one more day closer to graduation. And graduation is a week from now,” Felix said. “So I made it.”

Gabriel Sandler

Triple major pursues passion for social work

May 4, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

For Corina Tapscott of Phoenix, serving the community is a family tradition — and one that would ultimately shape her future. Corina Tapscott ASU Spring 2018 graduate Corina Tapscott will graduate with a triple major in social work, psychology and philosophy (law, morality and politics), with honors from Barrett, The Honors College. Photo by Savannah Harrelson Download Full Image

Her path to service wasn’t clear to her, though, until an illuminating conversation with her mother that helped her realize she was meant to continue the tradition through her education and career.

“I was talking with my mom over dinner and I realized I wanted two things: I wanted to help people and I wanted to go to school for it,” Tapscott said. “I wanted to do what my grandpa and my dad were doing — which was working at their local homeless shelters. I shared this with my mom and she said, ‘Well, honey, that's social work!’"

Tapscott did some research and immediately fell in love with the social work ideology. She says she has been enamored with the field ever since. 

She will graduate in May with a triple major in social work, psychology and philosophy (law, morality and politics), with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

Along with her rigorous triple major, Tapscott took advantage of the many opportunities to get involved at ASU and gain a wealth of professional experience through serving others in the campus community.

During her time at ASU, Tapscott served as the undergraduate student government president and vice president of services at the Downtown Phoenix campus, led a student organization committed to advancing health and wellness for students and was a lead peer educator for the Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention program.

She also served as chair of the Programming and Activities Board of Student Health Outreach for Wellness and was a member of the University Hearing Board and Parking & Transportation Committee. Last summer she received funding to travel abroad to five different countries and completed a research study on bystander intervention from a global perspective.

As she moves on to her career (and ultimately a master’s degree) in social work, Tapscott is carrying on the legacy of those who came before her and setting an example of leadership and service for those who come after.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective? 

Answer: I loved what I was beginning to learn about the social work ideology. One thing that really struck my fancy, and has stuck with me, is the tenet of social work that always requires us to honor the client and to empower the client. The social worker does not provide the client with any answers or opportunities they weren't already capable of achieving. I picture it as if the social worker is walking alongside their client every step of the way, rather than leading them. The social worker doesn't have the answers, they merely help guide the client to the answers they already had within them. It is a very empowering lens to come from when you do this work. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I chose ASU because it was not only affordable but offered me the experience of Barrett, The Honors College. Plus, I would be able to stay close to home!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school? 

A: To absolutely apply to and go after every single thing you want to. Even if you want to apply for that scholarship just a little or only have a small interest in that job — apply! You don't realize how much more there is to yourself until you allow your community to show you what you're capable of. ASU is chock full of opportunities, so go after them. And if there isn't an opportunity, an opening, to do what you want to do, create one! Talk to people, network and create the opportunities that you think should be there. Lastly, do this immediately, right after you step onto the campus! I feel so grateful for all my years at ASU partly because I had someone who believed in me right from the start and made sure I hit the ground running.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: I love studying in the lower level of the Student Center at the Downtown Phoenix campus. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I will be taking a year or two off to work full time within (hopefully) macro social work. During this time, I hope to read and study on my own as I further specify my interests within the field. After that time, I will pursue a master's degree in social work with potentially a concurrent degree in public health. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: To abolish hate and ignorance (potentially through research and supporting those who are already doing amazing work in this area through grants, etc.). To remove hate and ignorance from the world would be to create a foundation in which true equity, when it comes to having the opportunity to thrive in our world, would be possible. 

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services