How CF Shaped My College Journey

Growing up with cystic fibrosis, I was taught to fear hospitals and germs. But when I discovered my passion for medicine, I realized CF could be a unique asset. However, I also learned that I can only succeed in my studies when I prioritize my health first.

June 20, 2024 | 5 min read
A headshot of Molly Dunn
Molly Dunn
Molly Dunn wearing a University of Kentucky t-shirt and smiling in front of her college campus.

Growing up with cystic fibrosis originally taught me that hospitals had billions of germs that would make me sick and that I needed to avoid them at all costs. As a result, I listened to those presumptions and avoided hospitals unless absolutely necessary. I couldn’t risk getting sick and losing time in school or for other activities that I cherished. I didn’t have a strong
passion for any particular subject in school that would inspire a career choice to study in college. Over the years, I loosely mentioned wanting to become a lawyer or a veterinarian to friends and family who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I never really felt a strong passion to pursue either of those careers.

However, during my senior year of high school, I decided to take AP chemistry and AP psychology, which led me down a more targeted path. I decided I wanted to become a doctor. At first, I was concerned this profession couldn’t accommodate someone like me. I always worried about becoming sick after encountering even the most minute germs, which certainly does not align with a career in medicine. It was at this point, coincidentally, when I started taking a new drug, Trikafta®, and my health improved significantly. Up until this moment, I had anticipated a hospital stay and major sickness every two years. From kindergarten to sophomore year of high school, it was a guarantee that I would be in the hospital every other year. Entering my senior year, I knew that this was going to be that year I got sick. Fortunately, that never happened due to Trikafta and my increased compliance with treatments. I was finally confident in pursuing a career in healthcare.

Starting college at the University of Kentucky as a biology major, I was still concerned about whether the healthcare industry would accept me with CF. Even though I was enjoying my classes, this concern lingered. One major part of applying for medical school is shadowing doctors beforehand. However, I was so worried about professionals in the medical world telling me that becoming a doctor with CF was impossible that I put off this necessary activity until I was a sophomore in college. I was worried that a field I fell in love with wouldn’t be able to love me back. The opposite couldn’t be truer. Shadowing doctors over the past year proved to me how necessary I could be to the medical world. I have immense experience with frequenting the hospital growing up and how this affects a patient. This makes me extremely empathetic toward others in that situation, which is a highly desired quality in good doctors.

There were reminders of my health throughout this journey as well. During one shadowing experience, I felt a little off and forgot to eat that morning; so I inevitably I passed out. I felt so embarrassed, worried the doctor would perceive me differently, and I began to worry that healthcare was an impossible career choice for me. These feelings were completely squashed when the doctor was extremely kind, made sure I was alright and explained that this was a normal experience. I learned that even though I’m pursuing such a difficult ambition, I need to pay just as much attention to my body.

Since then, I have realized that I can pursue a career in medicine with CF, but I need to give my health and mind the attention they deserve. Having CF can push my health to the limit if I am lacking in my health routines. Now, as a junior neuroscience major, I have really found my passion at the University of Kentucky. I have also started an undergraduate research position, which has further deepened my passion for medicine. One thing I wish I knew going into university was how important it is to balance education and health for someone with CF pursuing higher education. I unfortunately took my health for granted during my freshman year, which made studying difficult at times when I felt sick. I’ve learned that I need to take the time to ensure that my body and health are taken care of just as much — or even more — as the time I devote to my studies. The results I see in my education are only as good as the work I put into maintaining my health. 

Interested in sharing your story? TheCF Community Blogwants to hear from you. 

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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A headshot of Molly Dunn

Molly is a young adult with CF. She is attending the University of Kentucky pursuing a degree in neuroscience. Her goal is to attend medical school and become a doctor, inspired by the doctors that treated her at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Molly is an active advocate for CF and has participated in speaking opportunities for her local CF Founding chapter since she was 10, including the 65 Roses Gala, the Bourbon Bites & Bluegrass fundraiser, and Great Strides. She lives in Kentucky with her mom, father, brother Nathan, and her dog Mickey. She enjoys working out, traveling, and watching basketball. You can find Molly on Instagram

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