Spring 2017

Health care's future heros

Hannah Quarnstrom in the photo she used to announce her college choice: University of Minnesota Rochester
Courtesy of Hannah Quarnstrom

On a Saturday in February, 21 high school seniors took turns telling a panel of judges how they found their passion for health care. During their allotted three minutes, many became emotional as they talked about living with an undiagnosed illness, surviving a devastating injury, or caring for a terminally ill family member and how it made them want to help others.

The students, participants in the University of Minnesota Rochester’s (UMR) second annual Health Care Scholars Day, were hoping their stories would earn them a scholarship. 

Although common in private schools, scholarship competitions are rare in public institutions. At UMR, which prepares students for health care careers, the idea for the event grew out of a donor’s concern about students dropping out after they weren’t cut out for such work. “We needed to change the way we evaluated students,” says Jay Hesley, UMR chief of staff. “We needed to look for passion as much as merit.”

Hannah Quarnstrom is one student who has the right stuff. She received the Gus and Ann Chafoulius scholarship after last year’s story-telling event. 

Quarnstrom, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 15, wants to become a physician assistant. She says receiving the scholarship helped her realize she belonged at UMR. “When I was giving my speech, someone saw something in me,” she says. “They knew I would make it, and that carries me through.”