Alyssa Heitkamp left the familiarity of a home in the Cleveland suburbs to embark on her journey at Kalamazoo College. After graduating in June, Alyssa has enrolled in a summer Emergency Medical Services program designed to equip her with the skills necessary to become an emergency medical technician. Once certified, she plans on working as an emergency room technician to gain additional experience before applying to graduate schools on her way to becoming a physician assistant.
An outfielder on the Kalamazoo College softball team, Alyssa was drawn to Kalamazoo College by the opportunity to be a student-athlete at an elite academic institution.
"I had several offers to play softball in college, but none of those schools came close to what Kalamazoo College had to offer academically," Alyssa said. "I could play the sport I love while getting an education that would prepare me accordingly for the rigorous curriculum of Physician Assistant school."
Alyssa juggled the demands of K's trimester schedule along with softball, work, volunteering, and social life.
"As a softball player, especially with the many changes in our schedule due to rain, I had to quickly learn the skill of time management to succeed in everything I was doing at K," Alyssa said. "The study habits and time management skills will help me excel both in PA school and in my future career."
In addition to her coursework as a Biology/Pre-Med major, Alyssa obtained many hours of job shadowing at the Cleveland Clinic during the summers of her sophomore and junior years. Through that experience, she met many medical professionals and secured an internship at the Cleveland Clinic Main Campus Emergency Department during the summer heading into her senior year. That opportunity led to the completion of her SIP (Senior Individualized Project), which focused on the influence of age on patient length of stay and diagnostic testing. Her work was considered for honors, and she was able to present the research in front of many established medical doctors at an emergency medicine conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
Alyssa also took advantage of K's renowned study abroad program, studying in Athens, Greece, for four months during the fall of her junior year. She valued the classwork there, including Beginning Greek, and the ability to travel throughout Greece and to six other countries during her time abroad.
Alyssa cited the combination of opportunities and the development of herself as a person and an athlete as things she values most about her K experience.
"Coming from the suburbs of Cleveland, I had grown up around the same type of people my entire life," she said. "When I came to K, I was instantly immersed in a sea of people from different backgrounds with different viewpoints and experiences than my own. Although frightening at first, I found myself coming out of my shell and forming friendships with people I may have never even talked to, let alone met. This experience is so important and valuable because I can relate it to my career goals of entering the medical field and hopefully continue to mold me as a person with each unique patient I encounter."
While the fourth year of Alyssa's softball season ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alyssa's playing experience was also critical to her success at K.
"I don't think I would have made it past my freshman year without softball and the people I met because of it," she said. "Being away from home was hard at first, but I soon found a great group of people and a support system in my fellow athletes at K. These relationships, especially within my team, continued to grow stronger throughout undergrad. They truly have your back and support you during your time at K and in your future plans."
In addition to her teammates and fellow K athletes, Alyssa remains grateful to her coaches, including Coach Jodi, Coach Ashley, and Coach D, for "continually putting 110 percent effort into shaping the Kalamazoo College softball program into the great program it can and will be." In addition to her career goals in the medical field, Alyssa is also looking forward to giving back to the game as a little league coach.