After moving to central Kentucky from Pittsburgh, horse trainer and dressage instructor Mara Rice-Stubbs earned a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from Eastern and worked for several years as a critical care nurse. Three years later, she is back at EKU, working on a pre-medical science degree.
Her journey has not always been easy. She and her husband live on a farm and own two horses. Rice explains, “The farm is practically a part-time job. My husband has really pitched in to get work done around the house and to maintain the farm. Our parents have been visiting frequently to help with farm chores as well.
When I first returned to school I was working full-time and going to school full-time. As coursework progressed, I realized I needed to cut back on work and focus on school, research, and preparation for the MCAT. I still work part-time as a critical care nurse.
I have to give it to my husband in that he is completely supportive, even though I've spent more time with my MCAT books than him over the last year. It is really only with my family's support that I am able to pursue my dreams. And for that, I am grateful beyond words.”
Q & A with Mara Rice-Stubbs
Why is studying chemistry important to you?
Besides being one of the required core sciences for medical school, a career in medicine requires a solid foundation in chemistry. As a physician, you are given pieces of the puzzle and are constantly working to align the pieces in order to reveal the mystery. Biochemistry is an extremely valuable tool in linking the clues together.
Why did you decide to return to EKU?
I have been a critical care nurse for the last three years. I decided to go to medical school in order to become a cardiologist, with an emphasis on critical care. I chose to complete my Pre-Med requirements at EKU because I had a positive experience with my science courses from the nursing program. EKU is one of the best-kept secrets for a pre-med degree. When I decided on pre-med, EKU was my first choice.
What sets EKU’s Chemistry Department apart from others in the country? What was it that made it a better choice for you?
The New Science Building at Eastern is a phenomenal place to learn. The teachers are willing to help you in any way that they can and provide numerous resources to ensure your success. The chemistry tutoring center is a top-notch resource.
The class size is relatively small for a university setting and the teachers take a personal interest in your learning. At other universities, you are easily lost amongst the crowd. I still keep in touch with teachers I had at EKU years ago. I feel like the teachers at EKU (both current and past) are cheering me on and supporting me down my non-traditional path.
Why is becoming a critical care physician important to you?
I am seeking a higher purpose, to both treat patients and their families and to gain a true understanding of the body in all of its complexity. Critical care has always been my passion because I enjoy the critical thinking skills it demands, the intensity of the work, and the importance of parallel thinking in order to plan for all possible outcomes.
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