The Driven Dreamer: Grace O’Grady

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Disclaimer: An image in this article shows a surgical procedure on a human brain. Viewer discretion is advised. 

The putrid smell of chemicals and dead organisms filled the air of the biomed room as students walked into class, holding their breath and pinching their nose to avoid the unpleasant smell. But one student in particular — Grace O’Grady — walked in with a smile on her face, beaming with excitement. She put on her lab coat and latex gloves, ready to dissect a cow’s eye. With a scalpel in her hand, she began to cut open the eye and explore the different parts.

Photo Courtesy ofJayden Scalise
Grace O’Grady is standing by her locker in her scrubs, ready to learn. She participated in a summer program at Rady’s Children’s Hospital.

Although O’Grady is known for her skills on the soccer field, she is more than just an athlete. She is a passionate and hardworking student who plans to pursue her passion for the medical field in college.

Growing up playing soccer, O’Grady has been in and out of the hospital quite a few times. Although her injuries have been a challenge for her both mentally and physically, they were also the reason for her love for the medical field.

“I had to get surgery on my ankle in eighth grade and the whole process amazed me,” O’Grady said.

After discovering her interest in the medical field in eighth grade, she decided to take biomedical science courses throughout high school to learn more about her interest. Through biomed, she was able to find her true passion for nursing.

“We cover all different topics in the biomedical sciences,” biomedical science teacher, Valerie Park explained, “We learn about different careers in the biomedical sciences so at the end of four years students really get a good idea of what to expect when they are pursuing a medical career.”

Not only did she pursue her love for medicine in class, but she also pursued her passion outside of school, revealing her dedication to her career path.

 “She went to a medical academy two years ago and we really wanted her to do that  before she committed down this pathway of pursuing a profession in nursing,” Her mom, Skye O’Grady said, “we were really proud of her to do that first rather than just jump in without having any prior experience on it.”

Grace loved participating in the Rady’s Children’s Hospital summer program and was inspired to intern at Fresh Start Surgical Gifts, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged kids with deformities through reconstructive surgery.

Photo Courtesy ofJayden Scalise
Grace O’Grady is holding a human brain in the operating room. One day during her medical academy she had the opportunity to dissect a human brain with the head neurosurgeon at Rady’s.

“I helped organize a charity ball and silent auction at Fresh Start Surgical Gifts,” Grace explained, “and in the office I organized patient files for upcoming surgeries.”

It’s not easy to balance school work, sports and internships, but Grace manages her time wisely and works extremely hard. Her younger sister Lily looks up to her balanced life.

“She’s such a role model in the fact that she sets so many examples both academically with her grades and athletically with how hard she works during practice. I just always look up to that,” Lilly said. 

The cow eye dissection comes to an end and Grace takes off her lab coat and gloves. As the end of her high school experience is approaching, her mom leaves her with some advice.

“Have that same balanced approach so [you don’t] lose [your] passion for the vision of what [you] see [your] life to be.”