Education

This O’Fallon teen could be your doctor one day

Hannah Caraway talks about her goals and what drives her

O'Fallon High School junior plans on being an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal surgery.
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O'Fallon High School junior plans on being an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal surgery.

The patient was Carmen Tarleton, one of the first people to receive a face transplant. And listening in the audience was Hannah Caraway, who has wanted to be a doctor since she was small.

Hannah, 16, is a rising junior at O’Fallon Township High School, the top of her class with a 4.18 GPA on a four-point scale. This summer, she was selected to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders, a national convention to allow prospective doctors to hear from physicians, researchers and patients.

That included patients like Tarleton, who sustained severe chemical burns over 80 percent of her body after her estranged husband beat her with a baseball bat and poured industrial lye over her face and body, blinding her. Tarleton received a successful face transplant and has restored vision in one eye, and her story made Hannah cry, she said.

“I’ve always felt it was my drive to help people, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Hannah said. “(The Congress) was a fantastic opportunity to learn from doctors and their patients.”

Hannah specifically remembered Tarleton’s powerful story, as she spoke about how her medical treatment has helped her live life again at the June conference in Boston.

“I thought, ‘This is why I want to do this, to help her like those doctors helped her,’” Hannah said.

Hannah was chosen for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders because of her high academic performance, PSAT scores and endorsements from teachers. In addition to her studies, she is on the math team, Scholar Bowl, French club, Model United Nations, French honor society, the National Society of High School Scholars, Torch and Laurel Society, Friends of Rachel and more.

The Congress experience has been a highlight so far, Hannah said. Only 4,000 students were admitted nationwide, and she received a letter of congratulations from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

As cliche as it sounds, find out what you love to learn about. You need to figure out what you’re supposed to do, and everything will fall into place — but it’s a lot of hard work, too.

Hannah Caraway, junior at O’Fallon Township High School

Hannah has known she wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl making ornaments for refugee children. “There was that click inside… that’s when I realized I wanted to help people,” Hannah said.

There have been some challenges: as a freshman in Model U.N., Hannah represented Turkey when a real-life Middle East crisis was going on, and on the first day she had to stand up and debate with seniors. Those experiences have helped her become more comfortable with public speaking, debate, and working with a team, Hannah said.

Hannah will enter her junior year with a high GPA and beginning her preparation for college, with the SAT pending and beginning to look at universities that she hopes will provide a balance of academics and student life. After that comes medical school, residency, and possibly a fellowship to concentrate on either orthopedics or neurology with an eye toward working with people with spinal injuries, she said.

“You get very excited when your child does well,” said Autumn Caraway, Hannah’s mother, who was able to accompany her to the Congress. “It’s exciting to watch her evolution, where she has deemed her own path.”

Hannah attributes much of her success to the support of her parents and grandmother. “They’ve always supported me — driven me to stuff like Scholar Bowl at 4 a.m.,” Hannah said. “I wouldn’t be here without my support group. And it’s important to accept that support and help.”

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

Hannah Caraway

  • Age: 16
  • School: O’Fallon Township High School
  • Grade: Junior
  • Town: Shiloh
  • Parents: Autumn and Jason Caraway
  • Siblings: Liam Caraway
  • GPA: 4.18 on a four-point scale with honors
  • Clubs and activities: Math team, Scholar Bowl, French club, Model U.N., French honor society, National Society of High School Scholars, Torch and Laurel Society, Friends of Rachel
  • Awards: Chosen for Congress of Future Medical Leaders
  • Favorite classes: Honors chemistry, honors algebra
  • Pasttimes: Reading classical literature and science nonfiction
  • Future Plans: College and medical school
  • Advice for other students: “As cliche as it sounds, find out what you love to learn about. You need to figure out what you’re supposed to do, and everything will fall into place — but it’s a lot of hard work, too.”
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