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Student Spotlight: Mariah Kimes Morphs Personal Obstacles Into Health Care Passion

Mariah Kimes

As a health care professional, helping others overcome illnesses and personal obstacles is an expected behavior. However, when you are the health care professional who can relate to the obstacles being presented, you instantly become part of a special collective. Mariah Kimes, second-year medical laboratory sciences (MLS) student is a shining example of this. Her illnesses and subsequent diagnoses would bring the average individual down and make them doubtful. However, she has used her story as a triumph to propel her through life.

The daughter of Charles and Arlys Kimes is based in Brighton, Tennessee, but has also lived in North Carolina and Arizona. She is a graduate of Brighton High School and Dyersburg State Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in general studies.

If you knew her story, you would know this was no easy feat. Obstacles presented themselves early in Kimes’ journey. “When I was 10, I was admitted into the hospital due to the fact I was having severe abdominal pains and vomiting blood,” Kimes said. “They explained to me that I had idiopathic acute pancreatitis. I ended up staying in the hospital for a week,  and the majority of that time living through an IV.”

Ten years later, Kimes had another pancreatic attack, but would receive a much more severe diagnosis – celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the intestines when gluten is ingested. “ Once she was diagnosed, Kimes had no choice but to amend her lifestyle and completely change her eating habits. To further complicate things, she had just applied to the medical laboratory sciences  program at UTHSC.

Kimes is not the only member of her family to triumph over a hardship. Her brother, William, has as well. He has a very rare bone mutation called Fibrosis Dysplasia. It more commonly appears in the hips, and often leads to total dependency on others.

When asked why she chose her career path, she said the decision took some time. “I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life,”  Kimes said. “I finally came to the conclusion one day that I really enjoyed a class I had in high school that dealt with simple lab testing. I did tons of research and found out about medical laboratory science.”

Choosing to attend UTHSC, though, came naturally. “I found out about UTHSC with my research into lab professions,” Kimes said. “Once I decided that I wanted to work as a medical laboratory scientist, I told a family friend, and it turned out she had just graduated from the MLS program,  which  sealed the fact I wanted to go here.”

Once settled in as a student, Kimes was voted president of her class and is a yearbook representative. She definitely believes that student involvement is important. “To get the most out of your student experience, you need to be involved,” Kimes said. “Being involved as a student helps you meet people in your field of study who can be valuable assets later in life.”

Linda L. Williford Pifer, PhD, SM (ASCP), GS (ABB), professor in the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences in the College of Health Professions, spoke highly of Kimes.

“Mariah  is full of energy and optimism about her future in the clinical diagnostic laboratory. She attends every meeting of the Memphis Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, demonstrating her enthusiasm for her chosen profession. She is a born diagnostician because she loves science and getting to the bottom of medical mysteries. ”

When class is not in session, Kimes enjoys reading a good book, but is also very much an outdoor person. Kimes considers her biggest accomplishment to date to be coaching the youth she has helped mentor, whether through an organization or everyday life. “Knowing that I helped them with something they were struggling with and watching them succeed makes me proud of everything I have done,” she said.

For incoming health professions students, Kimes offers the following advice. “Work hard especially in the beginning,” she said. “You will have a class where you will struggle and you can’t let that overwhelm you. Try working out a couple times a week. It helps with the stress exponentially.”

Kimes is already contemplating her master’s and doctorate degrees. “I am planning to go into reproductive sciences,” she said. I want to help people be able to conceive or figure out why they are having trouble. Without reproductive sciences, I wouldn’t be here today.”