Student overcomes incredible odds, earns Doctor of Medicine

kelly6412As an uninsured, teenage single mother being seen in St. Vincent's emergency department, graduating MD student Kelly Griffith-Bauer never imagined she would be returning as one of their physicians. 

Kelly came to Oregon in 1996, the day after her high school graduation in Missouri. She was 17 years old, and arrived penniless with a 6-month-old baby; a family member took her in. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before she needed to move on, and came to the sharp and bitter realization that she had nowhere to go. 

"Thankfully, I had already begun to meet amazing people in Portland who were willing to take a chance on me," said Kelly. "I began working at a jewelry store. Unbeknownst to them, I was temporarily sleeping in a teen parent foster homeand then in my own empty apartment, sleeping on the floor, using my son's blankets as a pillow."

Friends soon noticed Kelly's meager living environment, which included only two outfits for work, so rallied to help, gathering a collection of clothing, blankets, towels, dishes and a bed. Their vote of confidence gave Kelly the springboard she needed to move forward. 

Anxious to find stability, which included a career, Kelly took a job as a communications consultant. "I was finally making enough money to support myself, pay for day care, and no longer using any government assistance," she said.

Then in November of 2001, Kelly was laid off. As part of a severance package that included money toward a college education, she made a life-changing decision, and instead of looking for another job to pay the bills, she enrolled in pre-med classes at Portland State. It was a leap of faith.

"I was terrified to be the sole supporter of my then six-year-old son," she said. "It wasn't easy to put my son back on the Oregon Health Plan, go on food stamps or to enroll for section 8.They were, however, temporarily necessary to get me to the next point in my life."

Kelly had always dreamed of becoming a physician, but had been sidetracked along the way. While working at Starbucks and volunteering at OHSU, she managed to complete her prerequisites and graduated with a BS in Biology in 2006.

Kelly wasn't accepted the first year she applied to OHSU. Unwilling to relinquish the dream, she applied again. The second time, she was accepted and began classes in 2008. 

Kelly graduated June 4 with a Doctor of Medicine. She matched in a preliminary position in internal medicine at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland and in the future, will continue to pursue a residency in dermatology.