Neuroscience studies lead graduate to oral surgeon office
Kyrstin Gee '18 focuses her strengths and interests as she gains valuable credentials for medical fields in a job she loves
All of her young life growing up outside Chicago and later in high school attending a Maine boarding school as a top alpine ski racer, Kyrstin Gee ’18 felt drawn to the medical sciences in a general way, though she lacked a precise vision of what that might look like for her as a post-college career, even as she studied first chemistry and then neuroscience as her Saint Michael’s majors.
Today Gee says she is grateful for a “total whim” in her extensive job-application process as a senior in 2018 that led her to apply “as a long-shot” for a position right across Route 15 from campus in the Fanny Allen complex offices of Vermont Center for Dental and Maxillofacial Surgery. Her work there for the past two years as surgical assistant and implant coordinator has been an education and inspiration, she says, helping her focus her strengths and interests.
“I definitely now see myself being hands-on inpatient care and definitely want to be involved face-to-face working with patients since I love working with people, and in particular working with kids,” said Gee, who is in no real hurry to take whatever her next career step might be since she enjoys her present work so much. “I know now that I don’t’ want to be a person behind the desk.”
Gee feels that her optimistic and upbeat social personality is a strength in a medical setting, and is something that the friendly and supportive close community culture at Saint Michael’s nurtured, pointing to the many ways that a college career can prepare a person for later life well beyond just academics.
“I had some really great teachers at St. Mike’s who encouraged me to be self-sufficient and go after what I want, even if something feels like a reach,” said Gee, who mentioned one mentor in particular, biology Professor Ruth Fabian-Fine. “I did research with her on spiders with a group, and we had a very close relationship – she was super encouraging, which was a theme with all my teachers at Saint Michael’s. Everyone there wants you to try your best and roots for you, so I feel like I have a giant cheerleader squad!” Her work with Fabian-Fine included having a manuscript published in a scientific journal along with other research students on their work – “so I had another great thing added to my resume – published medical literature, which is an incredible thing for an undergraduate to be able to do.”
Gee said she was motivated to find work in the area since her boyfriend, also a Saint Michael’s graduate, remains in the area and they share a residence locally with other fellow alumni. Also, Gee’s brother, James, is a senior in the Class of 2021 at Saint Michael’s, and has similar interests in possible medical careers. She said their proximity to one another is especially nice for her since they shared one year as students together at Saint Michael’s, giving them a chance to grow closer after spending their teen years apart at different boarding schools.
“I advise him to learn from experience and see where it takes you; for myself, I was worried about committing to something I wasn’t prepared for since in graduate school you have to pick a specialty and I was afraid I was going to pick something and then hate it a few years into it – so I thought I’d put my feet somewhere to experience dealing with medical things to see what I liked and didn’t like … and when I gave this advice to my brother, it made sense to him, too.”
An added benefit for Gee of working at the oral surgeon office has been the specialized training she has been able to attain at no additional personal cost. “I got my phlebotomy license and now can do IV’s and take blood, and I got my radiology license through them as well so I can take X-rays and review radiographs. They send us to classes to make sure we know what we’re doing here when we get involved with patients.” She also just was certified for dental anesthesia.
Gee said the Saint Michael’s Career Education Center was a great resource for her as she began her job hunt. “I met with Tim Birmingham from the Center and we chatted about what sort of things I was interested in – physician’s assistant, or maybe nursing – and the conversation was super helpful, but then the pandemic happened and led me to take another path. At the time it was a great resource to bounce ideas off him,” she said.
Also beyond the classroom, Gee said her experience with skiing at Saint Michael’s also helped her learn more about herself and her interests. Her first two years, she skied for the College varsity alpine team, but for her last two years she wanted to focus more on her studies, and so left the team, though finding time still to teach and coach youth skiers at local high schools and Smuggler’s Notch, which made her realize how much she loves working with kids.
“I think society puts a lot of pressure on people to choose a career too early sometimes, especially college students — but a lot of life just comes from experience, and you don’t know how you’re going to react or feel with something until you get some experience in some area you think you’d like to be in,” Gee said. “So I’d advise students who are thinking about jobs and careers to test the waters, but don’t feel you have to commit at this point, because we’re young and have lots of time.”