By Jocelyn Williams, ’14, ’15
St. Bonaventure University senior Kelly O’Sullivan has been awarded a full scholarship by the Navy’s Health Professions Scholarship Program to attend George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in August.
The award is offered to approximately 200 students each year, covering the cost of tuition and required textbooks and providing a monthly stipend and sign-on bonus.
O’Sullivan, of West Sayville, N.Y., will receive an Honors degree and a bachelor’s degree in biology when she graduates Sunday morning during the university’s 155th Commencement Exercises.
The program enables HPSP students to graduate free of medical school debt, but the benefits of the scholarship do come with specific requirements. HPSP students must serve in the Navy as an active duty physician following graduation, and service payback time is a minimum of four years, not including time spent in the training program.
While in medical school, students will officially be commissioned as ensigns in the Navy Reserves; but even with Navy requirements, the program is designed to either have little to no impact on students’ studies.
“I definitely see a future for myself in surgery — most likely reconstructive,” O’Sullivan said. “I have seen firsthand how life-altering injuries can be, especially if they permanently alter a person’s appearance. I don’t believe that people who have put their lives on the line to protect our country should walk around with a permanent reminder, such as an unwanted scar on their bodies. There are medals for that. That’s what I see my job being — helping people return to an appearance that is as close as possible to their original one.”
She said her St. Bonaventure experience helped prepare her to both earn this scholarship and for her life beyond St. Bonaventure.
“Bonaventure has shown me that if you aren’t going to commit to something 100 percent, you might as well not do it,” O’Sullivan said. “Everything I do, I commit myself to it 100 percent. I make it a goal to accomplish that task to the best of my ability. If I can’t get myself to give 100 percent, that means that it isn’t the right decision for me. It doesn’t mean that it will always work out in the end, but at least I can look back and say I gave it my all. That was my mindset when I went into applying for the scholarship.”
Dr. Douglas Guarneri, professor of biology at St. Bonaventure and one of O’Sullivan’s academic Honors project advisers, said O’Sullivan is an excellent example of what St. Bonaventure students are capable of doing during their time in college.
“Kelly is very intelligent, hardworking and responsible,” Guarneri said. “She contributed to the intellectual life of the university, and her efforts with student organizations such as MERT were appreciated by the other students in the department. Kelly will become an excellent doctor, and the scholarship she received is very competitive, thus allowing her the opportunity to pursue her passion for medicine while also contributing to the military after she completes her medical training.
“I feel Kelly and the Navy will benefit from this relationship, and I look forward to watching her promising career in the future.”
Aside from the support she’s gotten from her academic advisers, O’Sullivan has been very much influenced by the encouragement of her family.
“My mother, father and brother (Christopher, a freshman at SBU) are my No.1 fans,” O’Sullivan said. “They are always rooting for me, and I don’t think I would be in the position I am in if it weren’t for them. They are huge supporters of me joining the military and were right by me every step of the way. I cannot wait to stand next to them in a few short weeks when I commission.”
In addition to O’Sullivan, alumna Simone Bernstein was also awarded the scholarship. Bernstein, of St. Louis, Mo., graduated last May from St. Bonaventure with an Honors degree and a bachelor’s degree in altruism and entrepreneurship; she also is entering GW in August. Bernstein is completing a Fulbright Student program at the University of Toronto.
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