Anneka Huegerich with the Wilsons
Martha Gardner Anders (held the scholarship for two years)
Michelle Landin (held the scholarship for for two years)
In 2009, the endowment fund had grown enough to generate sufficient payout to begin to award one scholarship each year. We also began accepting applications from accelerated BSN students who met the application criteria. Anneka Huegerich and Melanie Ziff were both accelerated BSN students who were scholarship recipients.
Meet Michelle Landin, the first Katherine Wilson Scholar
“I was very excited and humbled to learn I was selected as the first recipient of the Katherine Wilson Scholarship. This is really an honor for me,” said Landin, who entered the two year nursing program after earning her bachelor’s in psychology from Carolina in May 2005.
“When I learned I was chosen as the Katherine Wilson Scholar, I went into the SON website to read more about Katherine Wilson and her battle with cancer. I was inspired reading about her determination to become a nurse. As I looked through the pictures and read her story I could see that she touched many lives and was dearly loved by all who knew her. I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of pride and also a strong connection to Katherine,” said Michelle.
Michelle said she always wanted to do something in health care. It wasn’t until after she was diagnosed with leukemia in August 1999, when she was a rising high school junior and undergoing cancer treatments, that she began to consider nursing as her career path.
In the summer of 1999, Michelle’s mother noticed that something wasn’t quite right with her daughter’s health. She couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Maybe the clue was that when Michelle bruised, she didn’t heal quickly. But, Michelle was a runner, exercised up and down bleachers and was the epitome of good health. Mrs. Landin cajoled Michelle to go to the doctor for a blood test. Three hours later the oncologist gave them the diagnosis.
During the weeks and months that followed while Michelle underwent chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and then a cord blood transplant, her family was always with her. Her mom took a long leave of absence from work, and her dad, grandpa and two older brothers took turns being with her in the hospital.
Since returning home, Michelle has not needed any further treatments and is considered cured. Michelle attributes her good health to the excellent medical care she received from Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a pioneer in cord blood transplantation, who practices at Duke University Medical Center.
“My nurses were wonderful,” said Michelle. “They took care of me without making me feel like I was sick. They had the experience to understand what I was going through without even having to ask. I believe they saved my life.”
Michelle said she wants to give back by becoming a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner. “It’s my way of thanking the people who gave me such good care.”
She said it feels good to look back and talk about her battle with leukemia. “I forgot how bad I felt then because I’m feeling so good now. I’m healthy now and ready to move on with my life. Back then, I needed to make goals to focus on the future, reminding myself that there would come a time when this would be all over.”
After two years of home-bound schooling, Michelle graduated from Cary High School and began classes at Carolina, where her older brother, Dennis, was also a student. It was a natural that she entered Carolina. “This is the place I should be,” Michelle said.
Michelle feels there are many similarities between her and Katherine Wilson. “I was in treatment when she was,” Michelle said. “It’s so draining, and to undergo what Katherine went through shows her courage and determination.”
“I saw a photo on the School’s Web site of Katherine and her dad, the one where both of their heads are shaved. My brother shaved his head with me and we have photos of us standing together too. I’m also the baby in the family. I have two older brothers, just like Katherine.”
Michelle is of Cuban heritage and a first generation American who speaks Spanish. She has jumped right into the nursing school experience by helping to translate for Latino patients during clinicals. “Communication is a big barrier, and my language skills have already helped bridge the gaps between patients and providers.”
The School of Nursing is honored that Michelle Landin is the first recipient of the Katherine Wilson Scholarship. She exemplifies all that Katherine would have wished for.