Profile: The road of life leads College of Medicine student to Hershey

Meagan Horst

Meagan Horst

Penn State Hershey used to be a place of grief for Meagan Horst.

It was the place she went to say goodbye to her father when he died of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 44. Fourteen years old, she was the oldest of four children, waiting her turn to go into his room and say her final goodbyes.

As she sat with her siblings, she saw a little boy walk by, clutching an IV pole. He seemed so happy, excited by the simplest of things. “I knew right then that I was going to be a doctor,” she said. “I knew I was going to grow up to take care of people like him. He was just so happy to be alive.”

After high school, Horst spent a summer between her sophomore and junior years of college in Honduras and the Dominican Republic, shadowing doctors and learning about the world of medicine. There, her experiences in the operating room convinced her she wanted to become an anesthesiologist. “I was always interested in the other side of the curtain, and it just felt right,” she said. “I love everything about it.”

The following summer she traveled to Peru, interpreting for a medical team that needed help with Spanish. “I’ve always been ambitious and had lots of goals,” she said.

When she began looking at medical schools, Penn State College of Medicine seemed to be calling out to her because of her experiences there with her father as a teenager. “It used to be a place of grief, but now it’s a place of life for me,” she said. “I have taken care of patients in the same room where my father died and now Hershey is my first home I’ve had with my husband.”

Her husband, Aaron, works with dairy cows, so the location near Lancaster and Lebanon counties was perfect for his job as well. “Neither of us was ready to go to a city,” she said. “Plus, it’s a great program with a community feel.”

The biggest challenge she faced during medical school was prioritizing. “You want to develop who you are as a doctor, but still maintain who you are as a person,” she said. “You have to put the things that are important to you in the order that they matter.”

Horst expects it will be a continual struggle to keep her personal and professional lives in balance. “I want being a doctor to be something that is part of me and enhances who I am rather than finding my entire identity in it.”

She is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honors Society and will receive the Dr. Irwin L. Baird Memorial Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement.

The class also selected her to represent them as the student speaker at graduation. “I’m starting to get a little nervous about that,” she said.

After graduation, Horst will remain at Penn State Hershey to complete her residency in anesthesiology. “I really liked everywhere I went to interview, but when it came down to it, we decided this was the best place for us,” she said. “They had expressed some interest in me as well, so it worked out.”

Carolyn Barbieri, M.D., associate residency program director and director of medical student education, said she is glad Horst is sticking around for another four years. “She is very sure of herself and that gives her good confidence. You can see it in her interactions with patients and staff,” she said. “She is stronger than people who are a year or two above her in their training.”

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