As she enters her final year at Touro University Nevada, Kellie Hawthorne can say that her life has taken her in a complete circle.
Hawthorne, a student in Touro’s School of Physician Assistant Studies (PA), grew up down the street from The Shade Tree shelter on the outskirts of North Las Vegas. As a Touro student, she’s worked on the university’s mobile healthcare unit that serves the populations not far from where she grew up.
She’s also worked at the Stallman Touro Clinic inside The Shade Tree, gaining critical healthcare experience with women and children who live in the shelter near her childhood home.
Even as a child, Hawthorne would volunteer at activity centers around her neighborhood. She knew she wanted to help people, she just didn’t know in what capacity.
“My family always made sure I was surrounded with love and support, but growing up, I noticed there were quite a few families in my neighborhood who didn’t have the same resources,” she said. “That’s what really drew me into wanting to help people at an early age.”
Hawthorne grew up with her father, a 13-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, as well as her aunt and grandmother. At 11 years old, she began accompanying her father on his appointments to the VA Hospital and learned what a PA was.
“The first person my dad would see at the hospital was the PA,” she recalled. “He really liked his PA, and those experiences helped point me in that direction for my career.”
As a teenager, Hawthorne continued preparing for her future. While she waited for the bus to take her to work, people from her neighborhood would sit next to her and strike up conversation.
“Sometimes, they would just sit and ask me questions about what I wanted to do when I got older,” she recalled. “I would tell them that I wanted to become a PA or a doctor, and they were surprised because they didn’t think people from our neighborhood could become those things. Having the support is important, but having the drive and desire to want to do more is just as important.”
Hawthorne and her family continuously moved during her youth. She attended four different high schools before graduating from Spring Valley High School in 2009. The constant moving never deterred her from her studies though, and she would go on to attend the University of Nevada, Reno and graduate with her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience.
When it came to applying to PA school, Hawthorne submitted applications to Touro, as well as a few California schools.
“I was hoping I’d get into Touro because I wanted to stay close to my father,” she said. “This is my home, and if I want to gain a stronger network in the field, this is where I need to be.”
In addition to staying close to her father, Hawthorne was attracted to Touro because of the university’s diversity and commitment to serving the community.
“I love that our program really encompasses diversity,” she said. “Touro is also really big on community service, and that means a lot to me because of where I grew up. Having both the mobile healthcare clinic and the clinic inside The Shade Tree, Touro has shown me that it really cares.”
As she begins her clinical work at Southwest Medical Associates, Hawthorne is enjoying the experience. After graduation, she plans to work in family practice and help improve the state’s reputation regarding health care.
She grew up to help people just like she wanted, only this time she knows how she’ll help them.
“All I can do is treat my patients the way they should be treated,” she said. “I’m excited to get out there and help whoever I can.”