Meet Abby Stewart

Ambassador Program profile:
Meet Abby Stewart, Norfolk High student.
Her goal is to become a psychiatrist.

Abby Stewart - 8th Grade Science Meet   Abby Stewart - Job Shadow
Above left: Abby in 2009 — 8th grader at regional science meet in Norfolk, later at UNMC’s state science meet in Omaha. Above right: Abby in 2012 — Norfolk High senior, job shadowing psychiatrist Dr. Howard Liu over her winter break.

Ambassador Program connects Abby to her future

From career information, to meeting psychiatrist, to job shadowing
At an October 2012 event at Wayne State College, BHECN medical director Dr. Howard Liu spoke about behavioral health careers to over 160 students from 31 rural high schools in northern Nebraska. Rose Catlett, a case manager, also spoke about her work in the area — Nebraska’s Behavioral Health Region 4.

The Northern Nebraska Area Health Education Center (NNAHEC) arranged the day’s health career presentations. Organizers knew that Abby was interested becoming a psychiatrist because she participates in the NNAHEC health careers club. When Dr. Liu learned about her interest, he invited Abby to job shadow with him in Omaha over her winter break.

Abby in her own words — Q & A

Q. How did you become interested in behavioral health?
A. "I’ve known since I was three years old that I wanted to be a pediatrician. When I was in junior high, I started having doubts about whether I wanted to poke little children and make them cry.

I saw an episode of “Law & Order” and was very interested in the psychiatrist. Then one day, I looked it up online and read about the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and I knew this was a good career choice for me.

When my friends have problems, they usually come to talk to me about it. They usually figure out the answers, I just ask questions. I like helping. When you're in a problem, it's so hard to figure out, but when you're on the outside, it's easier to figure out because you have some distance."

Q. How do you find information about behavioral health careers?
A. “When I go on college visits, I try to speak to professors about behavioral health careers. There aren't many resources about behavioral health careers at our school, except that our guidance counselor let us go to Wayne for the Career Day where I saw Dr. Liu present about behavioral health careers.

At our anatomy class, I was amazed by learning about the science of the brain. My mom is an anatomy teacher and I learned a lot from her. We like to watch documentaries together about science. My mom also said that I have a quality where little kids are drawn to me."

Q. Was Health Careers Day at Wayne State College helpful?
A. "Yes, because it was where I met Dr. Liu. It was my first contact with a child psychiatrist. There aren’t any child psychiatrists in Norfolk.”

Q. What did you learn while job shadowing with Dr. Liu?
A. “The most valuable part of my time was our recap at the end of his workday. It was during our discussion that we had the chance to discuss all the different variations of a pediatric psychiatrist and all they can offer.

I learned a lot about how a pediatric psychiatrist brings a lot of his or her individual self to the table and has the ability to influence in positive, life-changing ways. Possibly one of the biggest lessons I learned is that you can't always cure — sometimes you are sustaining. I am very much a person who likes to fix things. Going into this profession, or any medical profession, it's valuable to know that you need to do everything you can to help a patient, but you can’t win every battle.”

Q. Did you learn things that may change your career goals?
A. “Dr. Liu was mostly doing follow-ups and prescription adjustments that day. He shared how the beginning of a case is when you really get to learn a lot about your patient, but I think I might like to do more problem-solving with my patients one day.

Also during this experience, I learned a little more about myself. I think I'd like to focus more on adolescent and teen cases. As a teen myself, I've had many friends over the past several years that are in need and searching for help, but have no idea where to go. These types of people are so near to my heart. I'm so excited that I get to be the one to help them one day.”

Q. Would you recommend job shadowing to other students?
A. “Absolutely yes! You can learn as much as you want about a profession through research, but you're never going to truly get a taste of what they do until you're at their heels down the hallway to consult with another doctor while in between patients.

When I arrived at my visit with Dr. Liu, I had questions. My shadowing experience gave me true-to-life answers that can only come from first-hand accounts. Shadowing with Dr. Liu made me more excited to get to the other side of medical school, and he really helped me solidify that this is the profession for me.”