Laura Hurley ’17
M.D. and M.P.H. student, Rush University, Chicago, Illinois
Laura Hurley

Preparing to serve

Laura was drawn to Northwestern’s ability to expand her roots while still staying close to her South Dakota home and also impressed with the college’s tradition of success in STEM departments. A two-time NAIA Scholar-Athlete in softball and a member of the Honors Program, she served as a research assistant for a Mayo Clinic physician and took advantage of cross-cultural experiences in Nebraska, Nicaragua and Ecuador. She is now pursuing a joint M.D. and master’s degree in public health with a goal of becoming a family medicine physician.


You were the very rare triple major. What led you to major in biology, Spanish and mathematics? Is there a common thread among them?

Coming into Northwestern, I was fascinated by the intricacies of the human body; however, majoring in biology alone didn’t fully capture all of my interests. Through the encouragement of key individuals, I considered further studies in mathematics and Spanish. My studies in mathematics provided an introduction to key public health pillars while promoting critical analysis and creative thinking. Studying Spanish language and culture provided a humbling experience, rich perspective and wonderful relationships. With this background, I’m confident in my pursuit of a career at the intersection of medicine and public health.

What did you most appreciate about Northwestern’s faculty?

I found faculty members whose support, genuine interest in my journey and excitement for my success made my education such a positive experience. My interactions with them encouraged my pursuit of public health as a part of my career and prepared me for my semester in Quito, Ecuador, where I fully appreciated what it meant to be accepted as the outsider. These professors continued to encourage me during my transition to medical school and while pursuing my career.

What are some of Northwestern’s strengths?

From staff and faculty to fellow students and the larger community, it was the people of Northwestern who shaped my undergraduate experience. Staff went out of their way to talk with me about my softball games. Faculty provided additional academic assistance outside of class and invited students to their houses to enjoy delicious home-cooked meals. The Orange City community accepted college students well. The local coffee shop especially felt like a welcoming extension of campus, a place for students to study or relax. 

How well did Northwestern prepare you for medical school?

Northwestern prepared me well academically and as a well-rounded person. The intangible skills I learned through my education have been crucial, allowing me to be a self-sufficient learner, critical thinker and creative problem solver. Perhaps more importantly, from my NWC education I gained a strong appreciation for community and connection with others, prioritizing the well-being of the whole person and learning from others rather than imposing judgment. These intangible qualities have proved invaluable in earning the trust of patients while developing a patient-provider relationship.

In what ways did you grow in your faith at Northwestern?

I grew up in a faith-based, close-knit family. Coming to Northwestern, I appreciated growing in my own faith alongside neighbors in the dorms and apartments, teammates and friends. Having this community proved to be key when I watched a loved one experience unexpected loss. Both during that period and throughout my entire education, it was so comforting to have professors genuinely offer their office as a space to talk and receive true support. In these ways, Northwestern enabled me to grow in my faith as well as gain tangible skills for supporting others based on how peers and staff alike had encouraged me.

What have you come to value about your Northwestern experience?

I truly value the entire experience. As much as I find comfort in making lists and having plans, the things I value most were things I never could have predicted when I unloaded my belongings at the beginning of freshman year. I value the unexpected friendships that now span several states and ordinary moments that became traditions and twists in the journey that ended up influencing where I am today.


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