For UMD grad Amanda Fowler, the journey was just as important as the destination
Despite growing up in Fargo, North Dakota, coming to the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) was like coming home for Amanda Fowler. With her extended family living in Duluth, she fondly remembers visits from her childhood, the glinting of city lights over the hills after five hours of driving in the dark and the warm greeting of family. “I just loved coming to Duluth,” said Fowler.
“When it was time for me to start applying to schools, my grandma would send me newspaper clippings about UMD,” she said. Fowler had always known that she’d attend one of the University of Minnesota campuses for her degree, but it was those early visits to Duluth, and those subtle hints from her grandma (who also happened to be a die-hard season-ticket-holding Bulldog hockey fan) that played a big part in her coming north. “I think Grandma was trying to send me a message: come be near.”
She finally found her focus at UMD after everything came together one day during a job shadow with a family doctor in Nashwauk, Minnesota, the very town to which her family had emigrated from Finland in the 19th century. “Through all these different tidbits throughout my experience at UMD and shadowing and volunteering, it pieced together and it finally was this aha moment,” she said. The future in focus was as a rural family practice physician.
The road to that moment involved the nurturing and open guidance of many at UMD. “It's all because of the different professors and advisors who helped me land on what I want to do,” she said. “I went from almost working in refineries, then working in pharmaceuticals, to being a phlebotomist and working with physicians and nurses and being in very intense situations and loving it because we were helping people.”
Outside of pursuing her degree at UMD, Amanda served as president of the pre-medicine club, co-president of Advocates for Reproductive Freedoms, treasurer and former president of the American Sign Language Club, and volunteers at the WeHealth Clinic, Dr. Amanda Klein's lab, looking into opioids, doing cell isolation, qPCR, animal handling. Along with her studies, clubs and volunteering, she worked as a pharmacy tech and a phlebotomist, and took up a number of hobbies, including hiking and camping, woodworking, film photography, cross stitching and reading dense books on medical ethics and biographies.
For Amanda, trying these different paths, and realizing they weren’t really for her provided the opportunity to learn from those experiences, and try the next thing. “Finally, it all leads you to that one thing that you know you want to do.”
Amanda graduated in May 2023 with a biology and biochemistry dual major with a minor in deaf studies, and was a speaker at her commencement ceremony. After receiving her degree, she is taking a gap year before pursuing Medical school, where she hopes to return to Duluth. “I'd love to be a rural family physician and then hopefully do a psychiatric fellowship to help address mental health concerns in rural areas.”
When asked what advice she’d give to students still searching for their life after school, she recommends finding the core of your purpose. “Really think about what you want to do in your future, what you see yourself doing, and what is your main goal.”
“I want to help people and I love science,” she said, “and what better way to do that is there than through medicine?”