COLUMBIA — Rebecca Bitar was one of the first people Dina Kaissi called on April 15.
Like most people that day, Kaissi had heard about the Boston Marathon bombings. But Kaissi, a Hickman High School graduate and junior on the Stephens College tennis team, has a lot of family in Boston. Bitar, her cousin, was working a little more than a mile away at Massachusetts General Hospital where she is a nurse practitioner.
"I contacted my cousin a lot during that time," Kaissi said. "She works at Mass General and was telling me about everything that's going on."
Massachusetts General, which is affiliated with the Harvard School of Medicine, is where many of the 264 injured that day were treated. It is also where Kaissi, an aspiring doctor, will be interning this summer with cardiologist James Januzzi.
"I grew up knowing it was a great hospital," said Kaissi, whose aunt, grandfather and grandmother have also worked at Massachusetts General. "There are a lot of opportunities that come from it, and I can't wait to see what I'll be doing."
Before she moves to her apartment in Cambridge, Mass., though, Kaissi needs to knock out the Medical School Admissions Test on May 30.
It is because of the MCAT that Kaissi practically lives at Lakota Coffee Shop in downtown Columbia, her eyes fixed on her Kaplan flashcards as she crams every ounce of scientific knowledge she possibly can before the baristas kick her out. Needless to say, she's ready to get it over with and start her internship.
"I've never had to try this hard in my life," Kaissi said. "It's good, though. I feel like it's preparing me for medical school."
While her MCAT score will have a huge impact on her future, right now it is really screwing up her junior year. Between tennis, school, work, extracurricular activities and the MCAT, Kaissi has practically zero time for friends.
"My friends are so mad at me," Kaissi said. "I don’t hang out with them. I don’t know what's going on in the world. I’ve become a Martian, which is really sad because I’ve never been one of those people that just studies all the time. I have a good balance between social life and academics, but this semester it’s almost all academics. I don’t like it."
She really didn't have time for tennis this semester, either.
Kaissi, the No. 1 singles player for the Stars, had to miss multiple matches and practices while taking classes for the MCAT. A two-time state qualifier at Hickman, it was the first time Kaissi's tennis took a back seat. While her coach and teammates supported her through the process, Kaissi says she felt terrible when she wasn't able to be there.
"This was definitely my toughest season," Kaissi said. "I had the support of my teammates and coach so that made it better."
In addition to tennis, Kaissi served as president of both her school's biological honor society and PanHellenic council. Viewed as a leader on the Stephens campus, Kaissi somehow made it all work.
"Everything Dina touches turns to gold," Stephens tennis coach Lexie Payne said.
Kaissi says she can't wait to get to Boston and see her family. After a stress-filled semester, she just wants to soak in the experience of working at a top-notch hospital. She says she needs to make a list of places she'll visit while in Boston, but will be sure to jog along the riverfront, her favorite place in Cambridge.
For now, though, Kaissi is still anchored to her seat in the coffee shop, going on hour seven of her study session.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.