Dr. Karen Morris-Priester

Humanities Lecture Series


The ability to relate to someone’s story on a personal level can make all the difference.

Dr. Karen Morris-Priester & Professor Nancy Eshelman

Between classes I ran into Nancy Eshelman.  I was lucky enough to have adjunct professor Eshelman, a retired journalist for The Harrisburg Patriot, for two writing classes at York College.  She asked me if I was attending the lecture by Dr. Karen Morris-Priester.  I hadn’t heard about the lecture that was part of the professionalism lecture series.  Eshelman recommended I attend because like herself and me, Morris-Priester was a former alternative student.

Karen was a child of the Harrisburg projects.  She grew up poor and found herself pregnant at the age of sixteen.  Refusing to drop out of school, she graduated and began working.  After having five children, she then got married.  By her own admission, she was doing everything the wrong way.

Her first jobs were secretarial and in the food service industry.  In time, she opened her own beauty salon but she never forgot her desire to study medicine.  Karen wanted to take evening classes at the community college in Harrisburg but her husband continually put her off.  Behind his back, she registered for classes, starting at a remedial level and didn’t tell him until the night of her first class.  It didn’t go over well with her husband but next to having her five children, sitting down for her first class was the most exhilarating feeling she ever experienced.

Attending part-time, it took Karen six years to earn her Associates degree.  She was working as a nurse at the Camphill Prison and registered at York College to earn her Bachelor’s degree in nursing.  Her life was stretched to its limit working fulltime and attending college fulltime.  The break she had between classes she would nap on the couches in Schmidt Library to get through the day.

Still, that little voice in her head continued to bring up her true goal, to become a doctor.  Karen made an appointment with her advisor and asked what classes she would need to take to eventually become a doctor.  She began taking the required classes for a medical degree.

“There were times with the electric was turned off until I could get caught up on paying for it.  I didn’t want people to know this because I don’t let other people tell me what I can do and neither should you because they will rain on your dreams.”  The electric was always eventually turned on.

Karen was accepted to a six week summer program at Yale for underprivileged minorities.  She was honored to be accepted and threw her heart into her classes.  Her determination paid off.  The university invited her to apply as a fulltime as a medical student.  She started the program two days before turning forty years old.

From Yale she applied at Harvard’s anesthesia program and was accepted and graduated using her own “Four P Plan” to achieve her goals.

Be Prepared: set goals, be ready for opportunities to fulfill those goals.

Be Positive: let people support you and surround yourself with those people.  Let “your haters” be a motivator to prove them wrong.

Be Persistent: take a step back to realize what needs changed.  Make those changes and keep moving forward in pursuing your goals.

Be Present: people watch what you do in situations.  How you accept challenges and new opportunities.

By following her own program she has reached her goal of becoming a doctor.  An unexpected reward for all her dedication was Johnson and Johnson Corporation paid off her school loans and gift tax of $220 thousand dollars.   Hard work does have its rewards.

Go ahead...take a swing. I'll duck and listen.

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