The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Valedictorian says passion is health care

Megan Doyle | Friday, May 14, 2010

University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh and several of the University’s first female graduates toasted to Class of 2010 valedictorian Katie Washington at Hesburgh’s birthday lunch Tuesday.

Washington will address her classmates from her position as an academic leader during the Commencement ceremony Saturday.

“I really hope that my class will reflect on the last few years in hopeful anticipation for what is next,” Washington said. “It’s a scary step, but I hope that we all choose to approach it with confidence and resolve, knowing that we have what it takes to affect the world.”

Washington earned a 4.0 grade point average and will receive a degree in biological sciences with a minor in Catholic Social Teaching.

After graduation, Washington will continue her academic career at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in their Medical Scientist Training Program. This program will allow Washington to pursue a dual degree to open up paths in clinical medicine and medical research, she said.

Washington said she is undecided about the exact field that she plans to enter after receiving her dual degree, but has enjoyed working in global health and infectious disease initiatives, as well as research on lung cancer.

Wherever her education and research leads her, however, Washington said health care is her passion.

“I’m hoping that by pursuing my dual degree, my clinical interests and research interests can inform each other so I apply my combined skill set to a problem or set of problems in health care in a new way,” Washington said.

Washington’s research experience has included work at the Cold Spring Harbor labs and genetic studies in the University’s Eck Institute for Global Health on dengue and yellow fever, according to a University press release.

“A lot of times, when I have found myself worrying about whether or not the work I do will matter for the big picture of global health care or to universal efforts towards social justice in general, I try to shift my frame of reference to realize that there are people all over this University and the world who are working just as hard as I am to find solutions to problems that matter,” Washington said.

Washington said the classes and professors that she has encountered in her years at Notre Dame established her desire to give as much as she can, no matter how big or small, to her community.

“I realize how blessed I am to be able to participate in a community of people who have similar goals, hopes and ambitions for the world,” she said. “Notre Dame professors are really great at helping maintaining this perspective.”

During her time as a Notre Dame student, Washington was active with the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, the sister-to-sister program at South Bend’s Washington High School and the Center for Social Concerns’ “Lives in the Balance: Youth Violence and Society Seminar.”

Washington’s involvement in the Voices of Faith Gospel choir played an important role in her time here at Notre Dame, she said.

“[Voices of Faith] has helped me to survive the stress and the pressures of different commitments that we all have here,” Washington said. “I’m hoping to find the same kind of outlet in the future.”

Washington said saying goodbye to her home for the last four years will be “a healthy and exciting transition.”

“Notre Dame has really helped me to build a foundation in terms of my beliefs and hopes for my life and vocation that will stay with me throughout the rest of my life,” Washington said. “Right now, I feel so content and overwhelmed with gratitude.”