Story posted November 09, 2009
The Senator George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute, whose mission is to increase the likelihood that young people from every community in Maine will aspire to, pursue and achieve a college education, has awarded Kyle Dempsey '11, of East Millinocket, its 2009 Paddy Frank Walsh Pioneer Scholar Award.
"Kyle is a great exemplar of everything the Mitchell Institute is about," says Colleen Quint, the Mitchell Institute's executive director. The award recognizes a Mitchell Scholar who has overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve success.
Having grown up for a few years without healthcare, Dempsey knows what it feels like to be fearful about hospital visits and the enormous debt such trips can cost uninsured patients.
That experience is a piece of what has inspired him to pursue a career in medicine and has informed choices that have set him apart.
During the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, Dempsey was awarded a Preston Family Public Career Interest Grant through Career Planning and a Global Citizens' Grant from the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good to volunteer in Nicaragua's second-largest public hospital.
"If it were not for these grants, I would never have had the opportunity to pursue such a project abroad. The medical experience I gained while in Nicaragua was incredible — I actually sutured patients and scrubbed into surgeries on a daily basis," says Dempsey, who is planning to return during winter break.
"I was deeply moved by the poverty I witnessed in Nicaragua and deeply moved by the kindness and generosity that everyone I stayed with, worked with, and helped at the hospital that I simply cannot and will not stop working for the hospital." Dempsey has also helped partner that hospital with an international non-profit organization that continues to send trained medical professionals from all over the world to the hospital in Nicaragua. Read more about Dempsey's medical mission to Nicaragua.
He has also coordinated three fundraisers while at Bowdoin — a Valentine's Day auction, a Taste-for-Change Latin American-themed dinner at Ladd house, and a dunk tank at Solarfest last year.
"In total, I've raised close to $1,500, which I will be delivering to the hospital in January," says Dempsey.
On top of this, he holds down jobs as a chemistry tutor, Smith Union information desk attendant and residence hall proctor, chairs the Student Activities Finance Committee and led an Alternative Spring Break trip to Guatemala to work with Safe Passage. "After my work abroad and job-shadowing here in the United States, I am certain that I want to become a doctor," says Dempsey.
He says his eventual goal is to set up clinics — one abroad at which doctors from the U.S. would volunteer, another in the U.S., for immigrants and the unemployed.
"There is no one thing that inspires me, it is truly the culmination of many life experiences," says Dempsey. "Everyday when I wake up at Bowdoin, I realize how extremely lucky and privileged I am to be at one of the nation's top colleges. If it were not for the help of the many friends, family, and teachers that have helped guide me along the way, none of my experiences would have ever been possible.
"To all of these people I am deeply indebted and feel that I must provide the same opportunities and privileges that they have provided for me to others."