Senior biomedical science major Abigail Hearns always knew that she wanted to help people, and after graduating this semester she plans to continue that mission as a physician’s assistant.
Diagnosed with childhood leukemia at age 2 and cured by age 5, Hearns was exposed to the medical field early on in life. Although she said she doesn’t remember too much of the experience because she was so young, that experience inspired her desire to help other people. She knew she wanted to work in the field.
Hailing from Cumberland Head, Hearns decided to stay local and attend SUNY Plattsburgh. She initially jumped around with her career decision, but after doing some shadowing and gaining experience, she knew becoming a PA was going to be her goal.
“Being in hospitals from such a young age, I always had that influence,” Hearns said. “It set the standard, and I never changed goals. I want to work in pediatrics because of that.”
On top of classes, Hearns also balances a part-time job at Pine Harbor Assisted Living passing out medicine to residents, a teaching assistant position for Biology 101 and conducting research the past few years.
Biology Professor Nancy Elwess met Hearns when she was a freshman in one of her intro classes. Since then they have worked together over the past couple years testing daphnia, a microorganism also known as the common water flea, and its effect on DNA in Lake Champlain. According to Elwess, Hearns has been working a lot with gene expression and DNA analysis.
“We take samples from Lake Champlain and look at the NADH gene which affects the hemoglobin, or oxygen, of the water,” Hearns said. “Then we look at the biomarkers for water toxicity and how that affects aquatic life in Lake Champlain.”
Hearns will be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, for the national Sigma Xi Student Research Conference where she will present her findings the second weekend in November.
Elwess said that Hearns hard-working attitude and ability to multitask are some of her strongest skills, but it’s her wonderful disposition that sets her apart.
“She’s a wonderful upbeat person,” Elwess said. “She’s never down or mad, always plugging away. It’s a part of her research too; She never gives up, and that is part of what makes her successful.”
Hearns attributes her success to time management skills and the ability to make a schedule and stick to it. For extracurricular activities, Hearns is the president of the Pre-Med Association. She got involved her second semester of freshman year and enjoyed it so much she decided to stick with it. The club goes over graduate and medical school application information, visit potential schools, bring in doctors to present and get students work experience in their desired fields.
The Pre-Med Association will soon host a 5K run fundraiser to accept donations for the family of Chemistry Professor Dexter Criss to help with medical expenses after a fatal car accident killed his son, Dalton, and left his wife, Barbara, severely injured. The time and date are soon to be announced.
“Our group felt for the Criss family,” Hearns said. “The whole department felt the community should give him the best support possible.”
Hearns said the event should have cider and donuts, and is trying to get the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir to perform as well because of how important it is to the family.
Elwess said that Hearns is a giver who likes to help people and does just that.
Hearns said she just wants people to know that she is here to help people succeed.
“Making connections and helping people is what I like to do,” she said with a small smile. “I’m thankful for the experiences and excited for the future.”