Mikayla Engstrom first thought she wanted to be a teacher, after all, there are a “whole lot of teachers in my family,” she said.
But then, while in high school, she had a teacher who connected one of her required classes to the anatomy of the human body and “I just thought ‘wow,’ you can integrate science of anatomy into helping people.” And the thought to become a physician, was born.
Mikayla is starting her second year of medical school at University of Washington School of Medicine. She is working this summer at Logan Health-Cut Bank Rural Health Clinic as a medical student.
Mikayla’s medical student training is part of a four-week rural rotation in a summer Rural Underserved Opportunity Program offered through University of Washington. In the program, the medical student gets to choose the state they would prefer to do their training in from Montana, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska and Idaho.
“I put my preference in for Montana, primarily because I hadn’t spent much time in Montana and there was a certain allure of all the outdoor activities this state has to offer,” she explained.
She saw a place at the clinic in Cut Bank and that suited Mikayla. “Cut Bank reminds me of my own hometown. I really like the community feel of Cut Bank.”
Mikayla was born and raised in Granite Falls, Wash., which she explained is a “small town near Everett, north of Seattle.” She graduated from high school there and went to college at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., graduating from there with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bio-Chemistry.
She took a gap year following college graduation while applying to medical school and worked in a research laboratory. She then learned she was accepted at University of Washington School of Medicine and her career path to being a doctor began.
Her first day at the clinic was Aug. 1 and since then, she has been involved in many aspects of patient care under the direction and supervision of Dr. Henry Clay.
“Dr. Clay is great to work with and very supportive. He is letting me do lots of things. Everyone in the clinic, at the hospital and in the community have been so helpful with everything.”
Teaching might have been her first career choice, but by becoming a doctor, Mikayla realized she can still do teaching, as a physician, “teaching people about their health.” Instead of teaching in a classroom, Mikayla will be doing that in a clinic or hospital setting, putting the “nitty-gritty of science into being a doctor.”
As far as what “kind of a doctor” she wants to become, Mikayla said, “I hope to keep my options mostly open, but I am passionate about women’s health, so maybe obstetrics or gynecology. I am also considering family medicine with obstetrics too.”
And where does she hope to “land” when medical school is finished?
“Ultimately, I would like to be in a rural or small community and hope to stay in the northwestern part of the United States,” she replied.
Aside from school and working, Mikayla likes to backpack and hike and do a number of other outdoor activities. “I also like to craft, which is my creative outlet,” she added.
There is limited time for the hobbies she loves because right now, her medical student training at the clinic in Cut Bank, which lasts until Aug. 31, takes precedent. And when that is over, it is back to medical school for her second year.
There are some busy years ahead for this ambitious and talented doctor “to-be” and she will be the first to say, she is up for the challenge.