From Outdoor Leadership to Medical Resident – Anatomical Pathology – Perth, Western Australia
Downs’ life has traversed a broad spectrum in both education and geography, from studying Outdoor Leadership in Unity to working as a medical professional in Perth, Australia.
She first heard about Unity College while working on a trail crew for the New Hampshire Conservation Corps. “One of my crew leaders was an alum,” she said. “That was between my sophomore and junior years of high school. The factors that ultimately led me to attend Unity College were the small size and, therefore, the faculty-to-student ratio, and the ability to participate in a well-designed outdoor education program.”
“I really liked the flexibility built into the program to be able to design a focus in adventure-based counseling, as well as take electives I was interested in for humanities and environmental education.”
Downs, who was on campus from 1996 to 2000 studying Outdoor Recreation Leadership, said “there are so many memorable moments, from my first introduction to the college and my new classmates with Nova, to graduating with those same classmates in my final days on campus.”
“It was total immersion into life at Unity College that left me with fond memories,” she recalls. “Outside of class, I practiced and competed with the Woodsmen Team, I volunteered with the Emergency Response Team, I relaxed at the lake with friends, I danced and enjoyed music at the Tavern and I honed my budding leadership skills facilitating ropes courses, working at the climbing wall and leading Nova experiences for incoming students.”
Downs said she valued the faculty/student interaction: “I would often sit with faculty and discuss life and leadership. One of the main things that impressed me about every single faculty member I spoke with one-on-one was that I always felt like I mattered to them. They see so many students throughout the years, but while I was there, I mattered and my thoughts were listened to and respected.”
Unity College, though it doesn’t seem connected, helped prepare Leana for a medical career.
“I opted to take the Emergency Medical Technician course and became an EMT-basic. I developed hands-on technical medical skills, teaching skills and the soft skills to be able to work with, relate to and counsel children and adjudicated youth through difficult experiences. I continue to use the technical skills, teaching skills and the interpersonal skills every day.”
“My time leading the winter Nova experiences led me to work in Antarctica. While I was there, I volunteered for the station’s trauma team. It was this experience that led me to return to college and study biomedical science in Australia. A lot had changed in cell biology since I took my first biology course at Unity,” she chuckled, “But one thing remained the same: the Kreb’s cycle that I first memorized in the basement of the library for Dave Knupp’s class.”
“During medical school, I had the opportunity to work in the Australian outback with the Yolngu indigenous people. It was the most profound experience of my medical training and, once again, I called on the educational and interpersonal skills I developed at Unity in order to relate to, work with, educate and learn from these beautiful people.”
“In my current profession, I am asked on a daily basis to make difficult decisions. The responsibility and ramifications of those decisions can be daunting at times. I started training myself to constantly assess situations, to problem solve and to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of others from the moment I started at Unity College. Practicing those skills over the years has helped strengthen and prepare me for the challenges I face in my current profession.”
Well done Unity, and well done Dr. Downs.