Russell, a senior at Massac County High School, was born with a hemangioma — a buildup of blood vessels that resembles a beauty mark — and underwent plastic surgery as a child to have it removed.
Russell said she started noticing strange looks from her peers when she was a toddler. Even at that age, she knew that going through life with a mark on her face could have altered her social life.
“I probably would have had problems making friends, with people being so judgmental in our world. I just don’t think that I would be the same person that I am. So that makes me think, ‘Wow, (the doctors) really helped me, so I could probably help other people,’” she said.
That’s what Russell aspires to do as a physician’s assistant.
Lauren Russell, daughter of JulieJo and Clarence Russell of Metropolis, Ill., is the Mid-Continent University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MCU Teen of the Week selected from nominees who guidance counselors throughout western Kentucky and southern Illinois submit to the Sun. Mid-Continent University will provide each Teen of the Week with a $2,500 annual scholarship to its university, which is renewable for four years. In the spring, a Teen of the Year will be chosen from the weekly winners. The Teen of the Year is eligible for a full four-year scholarship to Mid-Continent University or a cash award of $2,500, paid through the Paducah Sun, if the student selects another college to attend.
Russell knows her chosen career will take hard work and dedication, but feels she’s prepared for the challenge.
“‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re probably not big enough.’ That’s the one (quote) that’s motivated me lately,” she said.
And Russell’s track record reflects that motivation.
In addition to maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average at MCHS, Russell takes classes at Shawnee Community College, which will grant her an associate of science degree in autumn 2013.
Russell also has been involved in the Health Occupation Students of America since she was a sophomore. She served as president-elect last year, and is president of HOSA this year.
From fundraising to team-building to volunteering for blood drives through the American Red Cross, Russell said HOSA works hard throughout the year.
The organization also offered Russell a chance to shadow a physician and learn about a specific medical task. She said that following family physician Thomas Staton offered her a glimpse into family practice, as well as emergency medicine. Russell also gained insight into the character traits required of health care workers.
“Some people ... get the impression that doctors and health care workers are not friendly. They come off that way ... but they are really loving,” Russell said. “If you’re not a people person, it’s not going to work out for you.”
That requirement shouldn’t be a problem for Russell, who said she enjoys spending time around a variety of people, particularly when she can lend a helping hand.
Russell believes she and her three younger siblings inherited their caring nature from their mother. Rather than attend their regular family Thanksgiving last year, Russell and her immediate family served food at Martha’s Vineyard.
“Even though we’re interested in different fields, we’re all similar ... because we like to help people that have special needs, or are in need of certain things,” she said of her family.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641.