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Abbi Simons

Abbi Simons

Abbi Simons, 22, of Crystal Lake, Ill., graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Rochester Institute of Technology.

Her prior work experience has found her at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, in an animal hospital and at Rochester Animal Control.

She plans to take a year off after graduation before deciding what’s next for her.

“I plan on applying to veterinary school or Ph.D. programs in epidemiology and public health where I would like to focus on infectious diseases,” she says. “I always wanted to enter the health field because I felt there weren’t enough deaf people in those fields. So I wanted to do something where I could help others and at the same time teach people that deafness is not an obstacle.”

Simons was diagnosed deaf when she was 8 months old and prefers to communicate using American Sign Language and signed English. When considering a career, she initially wanted to become a trauma doctor. But after meeting deaf doctors in the profession, she learned most practice internal medicine or pediatrics because communication is easier in those fields.

“I know that the only medical field I am interested in is emergency trauma,” she says. “But I have such love for animals, which is why I’m considering veterinary school. Obviously I don’t have a set plan yet, but I know my career will be medical related - maybe medical care for animals or studying diseases.”

Simons when to a preschool for deaf children, then was mainstreamed with interpreters through high school. At RIT, she received interpreting and captioning in her classes. Being in Rochester also gave her exposure to medical professionals in the area who are deaf. “They helped guide my decision to the one that I have today – leaning towards veterinary school, epidemiology and public health.”

During her work experience, Simons says she has faced the same barriers other deaf people have faced. She didn’t think some people found patience for teaching her to assist with medical procedures, while others were incredibly helpful.

“I truly have to credit my parents for where I am today,” she says. “Even though they are hearing, they are such huge advocates for me. They have always pushed me to do whatever I want, and they have always said that they know I will succeed in whatever I chose to do.”

Her advice for other students contemplating a career in health care: Take hard courses and get a variety of experiences. “My co-ops have ranged from plant anatomy microscopy to molecular genetics lab work to animal medical care,” she says. “Those experiences have been a huge factor in guiding my decision to be where I am today. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from doing what you want. Only you know what will make you happy.”

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