Amazing Students

Lindsey Leonard

Lindsey Leonard (Photos by Chad Osburn/UGA)

As a future physician assistant, Lindsey Leonard’s passion is helping others to be both physically and mentally healthy. Her work with UGA Miracle has given her the chance to see how dedicated health care professionals can have a positive impact on the lives of others.

Dacula, Georgia

High school: 
Mill Creek High School

Family ties to UGA:
My uncle attended UGA, and two of my older brothers recently graduated from UGA. My family has graduates from several SEC schools including Florida and Auburn, but the Dawgs are starting to take over!

Expected graduation:
Spring 2020

Degree objective:
B.S. in biology, B.S. in psychology

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
UGA has been so much more than a school to me, and it is extremely difficult to sum up the extent of my academic and personal experiences during my time here. I am incredibly thankful for the immense growth I have experienced personally, relationally, spiritually, and academically through the endless opportunities at UGA.

I have been honored to represent UGA by cheering at football, basketball, volleyball and gymnastics sporting events while on the UGA cheerleading team. Creating an atmosphere of school spirit and camaraderie at UGA has been rewarding to say the least. I have also acted as an ambassador at numerous alumni and charity events through the cheerleading program. Traveling with the team to various destinations throughout different sporting seasons have been some of my favorite memories at UGA, and I am beyond grateful for the long-lasting friendships I have developed over the years through cheerleading.

I have been involved in the on-campus Christian ministry “Wesley” since I was a freshman at UGA. This past year I served as a leader for Freshley Prayer, which is a ministry area dedicated to the spiritual growth of freshmen in a large-campus environment. Also, this summer I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Israel through Wesley, where I got to witness biblical sites 2,000-4,000 years old! I have immensely enjoyed being a part of the Wesley student body throughout my years at UGA.

Following my sophomore year I took advantage of one of the many study abroad opportunities at UGA. I traveled to Australia and New Zealand where I studied environmental sustainability. My eyes were opened to the climate-change issues facing the world as I saw firsthand its detrimental effects, but I also witnessed very positive conservation programs in those two countries. One of the many highlights of the study abroad program was the opportunity to study marine life while diving on the Great Barrier Reef, a dream of mine since I was little. There are few things in life more exhilarating than diving with majestic 20-foot manta rays!

I have been involved in UGA Miracle since my freshman year, and I have served on the Family Relations committee for the past two years. Although Miracle is focused on helping others, I found it to be the source of some of the most impactful personal experiences I have gone through during my time at UGA. Miracle is dedicated to championing families who have received care at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as well as fundraising for valuable hospital projects. I have learned throughout my involvement in Miracle that when a group of people extremely passionate for a cause come together, they are able to accomplish incredible feats. My primary focus while being involved in Miracle has been on our Miracle families. These families have gone through difficulties that I cannot imagine going through, yet their strength and determination permeate through all circumstances. Perhaps the most influential part of Miracle is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work at our final fundraising event, Dance Marathon. This event never fails to reinvigorate my love for serving others. Our Miracle families are so immensely thankful for the dedication we put into Miracle, and I always find myself grateful for the chance to simply uplift others. Miracle has also deepened my love for the world of health care, because I am constantly reminded of how rewarding it is witnessing the lives of others be positively impacted by medicine.

I chose to attend UGA because …
Growing up so near to UGA, I had always wanted to go to school in a different state. However, my perception quickly changed as I began applying to colleges. After watching two of my brothers attend UGA and have the time of their lives, I realized how I could get an extremely valuable education while making memories and friendships to last a lifetime. The social atmosphere of UGA, the incredible cheerleading program, and the top-notch education all made my decision to go to UGA an easy one.

My favorite things to do on campus are … 
Cheering on the Dawgs! Saturdays in Athens are nothing short of incredible. I grew up watching college football with my dad every Saturday, and it is such an honor to be able to cheer between the hedges. I adore the enthusiastic atmosphere that accompanies Saturdays in Athens, and the exhilaration of running onto the field in Sanford Stadium is irreplaceable. My favorite thing to do is take a moment to look around at the entire stadium while I am on the field during pregame. The massive sea of fans in red and black yelling at the top of their lungs never ceases to amaze me. Traditions such as the battle hymn in pregame and the lights going into the fourth quarter give Sanford Stadium a special place in my heart, and I will cherish those memories forever.

Photo of Lindsey LeonardWhen I have free time, I like …
To get moving!! My favorite things to do are scuba diving and hiking. I had an amazing experience getting certified in scuba diving through a class at UGA. It was so much fun to get to know my dive instructors, and I was thrilled to finally be able to scuba dive. I absolutely love exploring the underwater world and appreciating its beauty. I have now been diving in Florida, Australia and Bermuda! I also am always up for finding new places to hike. I enjoy getting outside and spending time in nature while getting some much-needed exercise, whether that be a 3-mile hike at the local Indian Seats or an 11-mile hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. My favorite hike I have completed was the Queenstown Hill hike in New Zealand; I have never seen a view so beautiful!

The craziest thing I’ve done is … 
This is a tough one! I’d have to say the craziest thing I’ve done is go skydiving in Queenstown, New Zealand. It was winter in New Zealand, and I went skydiving from 12,000 feet in The Remarkables mountain range. The snow-covered mountains and pristine lakes in New Zealand made the view absolutely mesmerizing. I will never forget when my skydiver instructor said it was time to jump. The exhilaration of falling gave me so much adrenaline, and I would do it again if I could!

My favorite place to study is … 
The Main Library, fourth floor. Whenever I need to be truly efficient, I will go to the “fun room” in the Main Library for hours on end. The vibrantly colored walls and dry-erase boards make it a little more exciting to dive into the complexities of science. I always manage to run into a few familiar faces, and I enjoy the occasional break from studying! I also find myself making the familiar trek down to Caribou coffee shop quite often for some much-needed coffee.

My favorite professor is …
I have realized over the last three years how amazing the faculty is at UGA and how dedicated they are to our professional betterment both in undergraduate and beyond. I have been extremely privileged to have professors who truly care about their students and their education, and it is difficult to choose simply one professor. With that being said, my favorite TWO professors are Karl Espelie and Erin Dolan.

Dr. Espelie has been my pre-medical advisor for the last three years, and I also participated in his Honors biology seminar. I have never met someone so clearly passionate about helping students reach their goals, and without him, I would not have been nearly as successful as I have been throughout college. He goes above and beyond to be a mentor and to lead me and others on the path to success. I can confidently say that I would not be able to accomplish my goals without the constant support and guidance from Dr. Espelie. I will forever be indebted to his unending kindness.

I had the privilege of taking both biology and biochemistry courses with Dr. Dolan. Dr. Dolan radiates positive energy toward her students, and she is always more than willing to help her students succeed. She embodies what I believe a professor should be with her excitement to educate the future doctors, biochemists, nurses, and physician’s assistants at this university. Dr. Dolan’s personal guidance has been extremely influential upon my future career, and I am extremely thankful for her support.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
… Francis Collins. Francis Collins is a physician-geneticist who led the Human Genome Project, is the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and also wrote the book “Language of God.” He has an incredible mind for science, and he has explored the depths of the relationship between science and religion. It would be extremely rewarding to sit down and discuss the complexities of life with this brilliant man.

If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… save the coral reefs of the world from climate change. I grew up in a family that is constantly snorkeling and scuba diving, and it saddens me greatly to see the massive coral bleaching that is occurring. A large percentage of the world’s coral reefs are already dead, and this loss will be extremely impactful as more coral reefs are affected. If I knew I could save the reefs, I would do it in a heartbeat.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to …
Travel the entire world! I have been extremely lucky with the opportunities I have had to travel both in the U.S. and abroad. This has opened my eyes to how impactful it is to see the world and experience different cultures. I think learning about the values and traditions of other cultures is the key to understanding one another and achieving a more peaceful world. I also want to go scuba diving in many of the world’s most beautiful reefs before they are more severely impacted by climate change.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
My passion is helping others to be both physically and mentally healthy. As I go into my future medical career, I want to equip patients with the necessities of a healthy life that are so often disregarded such as a balanced diet, exercise and self-care. I think the basic ideals of health are much more powerful in everyday life than it seems, and this notion will be central to my approach in medicine. As of now, I encourage my friends and family to get moving and eat healthy, and I am always a listening ear for anyone who needs to talk about their personal problems. Additionally, I have a passion for serving others. I plan to practice medicine in an underprivileged country in the future in order to bring much-needed care to less fortunate areas of the world. The compassion of underprivileged people towards those who help them is indescribable, and I want to do everything I can to help those in need.

After graduation, I plan to …
I plan to become a physician assistant. Going to PA school requires extensive hands-on patient care experience, and I plan to get this experience by serving in an underprivileged hospital. My current plan is to work in a nonprofit hospital in Ethiopia for several months. I have always had a heart for serving others, and I think this would be a very rewarding and eye-opening experience.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
The SEC Championship game in the Mercedes Benz Stadium against Auburn in 2017. Although I did not cheer, I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to go on the field prior to the game, and the atmosphere was incredible! After pre-game, I got to watch the game in the front row of the student section with my brother. There was so much anticipation building up to this game, especially following our loss to Auburn in the regular season. This game was one of the most exciting football games I have gotten to experience, and UGA’s win made it all the better. I will never forget this day!