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Georgia Southern honors student credits University with successes, heads to medical school

Kristi St. Clair

Georgia Southern spring 2018 graduate Kristi St. Clair never imagined her summer job working at a marina would help determine her career path.

But a quick turn of events at a traditional holiday celebration at the marina near her hometown of Appling, Georgia, helped St. Clair realize she was meant for a medical career.

“The marina has a barbecue every Fourth of July where a whole pig is roasted. There were people chopping barbecue with big knives, and one man kind of clipped a piece of his thumb,” she recalled. “I was the only one working in the [marina] store and had to give him first aid and help send him to the hospital.”

She always had the idea that she wanted to be a doctor, but that day, she said, solidified her plans.

“That was the first emergency I’d ever experienced, and it was really exciting,” she said. “I didn’t feel out of control, I wasn’t scared and it wasn’t too intense. I think from there on I was like ‘I can do this.’”

Since then, St. Clair has focused her time and efforts on obtaining her degree in chemistry to prepare for her next journey: medical school.

St. Clair found a home in Georgia Southern University’s College of Science and Mathematics and the University Honors Program, which she credits with her success as an undergraduate student.

“The Honors Program let me take the best classes with the best professors, and I can attribute my personal growth to the professors at Georgia Southern,” she said. “The Honors Program really helped me get the most out of my experience here. It helped push me, and made me work on my patience and persistence.”

Patience and persistence have paid off for St. Clair. Her greatest accomplishment at Georgia Southern, she said, is graduating with a 4.0.

“I never expected to do that, it just kind of happened.” she said. “I’m really proud of that.”

In addition to her studies, undergraduate research and honors thesis project, St. Clair was also a teaching assistant for a general chemistry class since 2015, was president of the Chemistry Club at the University and was a member of Phi Delta Epsilon, a pre-medical academic fraternity. She also made time to volunteer regularly at the Hearts and Hands Clinic of Statesboro, a free healthcare clinic for those who fall below the poverty line.

“The clinic is such a great place — everyone there is wonderful,” she said. “I loved their mission, and the patients are so kind. I love that we can help them feel better in a time where it feels healthcare is up in the air.”

St. Clair also volunteered twice for the Honors Program’s alternative break trip to work with adult campers with developmental disabilities at Camp Blue Skies at Camp Twin Lakes in North Georgia. She served first as a cabin counselor and activity leader, and later as a staff assistant who helped campers with medical needs.

Her outstanding academic achievements and dedication to the campus community helped St. Clair score numerous awards during her time at Georgia Southern. She received the University System of Georgia Academic Recognition Award, which is the highest honor at the annual Honors Day Convocation. She also won the American Chemical Society Outstanding Senior Award.

As she prepares to attend the Medical College of Georgia in the fall, St. Clair is “definitely nervous, but mostly excited.” And Georgia Southern, she said, will always be a special place she’ll relate with happiness.

“I really feel I’ve always been at home here,” she said. “The people here are just wonderful and I haven’t found anywhere else that’s quite like it.”

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 27,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu

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