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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Health sciences senior finds passion through sister’s medical emergency

Photo courtesy of Abigail Mason
Abby (right) and Emmaleigh (left) attend the Taylor Swift Eras Tour in Houston, Texas, 2023.

Abigail Mason, a health sciences senior, knew she wanted to work in a STEM-related career. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that it finally clicked when Emmaleigh Mason, Abigail’s little sister, was undergoing open-heart surgery.

“When my sister had her open-heart surgery, that kind of narrowed it down completely for me,” Abigail said.

Emmaleigh had an atrial septal defect, essentially a hole in her heart. As Emmaleigh was being taken care of by the ICnurses at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Abigail’s interactions and connections with the nurses tending to her sister sparked her interest in the medical field.

“I remember talking with the nurses about how much easier it is working with children,” Abigail said. “Seeing kids overcome and face the challenges head-on were the best parts of their jobs.”

Suzy Jungmann, a STEM coordinator for Lufkin ISD, knew Abigail was going to do great things once she graduated high school. She helped her from freshman to senior year at Lufkin High School through academics and struggles outside of class.

Jungmann took the students on field trips and outdoor excursions, where she said she saw Abigail blossom as she and her lab partner took their science project to the next level, focusing on the technical aspects and the science behind their project.

“I think as an educator, we have to keep encouraging them even when they hit roadblocks,” Jungmann said. “There’s so many opportunities out there, especially for first-gen students.”

Abigail said in Lufkin, it’s common for men and women to get a trade and continue to work and stay in or around town. She applied to universities nearby, like Stephen F. Austin University as well as Abilene Christian University.

Tatum, Abigail’s friend, convinced her to apply to Texas State. She never researched or toured the San Marcos campus but knew it would be a great push in the right direction for what she wanted to achieve.

“[Tatum] told me I didn’t need to stay in my hometown,” Abigail said. “I know college is for education, but a big part is also our experience that shapes us.”

In August 2020in the middle of COVID-19, Abigail packed her bags, got her driver’s license, moved to the busy town of San Marcos and became the first in her family to attend college.

When Abigail was deciding on her major, it was an obvious choice to choose nursing as she wanted to work in the pediatric ICU. The more she thought about the task of letting families know about their children’s conditions or even worse, the more she ultimately decided to switch to a health science major, where she could pursue any avenue of healthcare she desires.

“If my sister didn’t end up coming out okay, I would have kind of a resentment towards her doctors and nurses,” Abigail said. “So, I switched into health science to kind of give me wiggle room.”

Abigail fell in love with Texas State and its welcoming atmosphere. Although she was beginning her studies at a time whemasks were mandatory and social distancing was present, she felt like she had the typical college experience. She still got to make friends, attend events and create great memories.

Abigail said as a first-generation student, not many people understand the pressure and work that goes into being a student. She said families of first-generation students are super proud and believe in their students so much, yet don’t recognize how taxing it is academically and mentally.

“Being a first-gen student is hard since you don’t have as many people who understand,” Abigail said. “But it’s also a blessing because you get to make your family proud.”

Abigail is forever grateful for her family’s support, believing in her every step of the way. She also credits the resources that Texas State offers to first-generation students. According to Texas State University Facts and Data from the Division of Marketing and Communications, 43% of Bobcats are the first in their family to attend college.

Before Abigail graduates this spring, she’ll be returning to Cook Children’s Medical Center on January 16th to begin her internship in administration. She said she can’t wait to provide the same love and compassion her family received six years ago.

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