• Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School rising junior Kyleigh Overholt is a two-sport athlete for the Eagles, and recently attended a medical conference in Boston. (Chris Stiles/The Clayton Tribune)
  • Kyleigh Overholt uses a stethoscope on her mother, Lisa Overholt, who works as a nurse for Rabun County. (Chris Stiles/The Clayton Tribune)
  • Kyleigh Overholt, right, plays defense during the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School Lady Eagles’ first-round North Carolina Independent Athletic Association 3A playoff game against Metrolina Christian Academy on February 13 in Rabun Gap. (Chris Stiles/The Clayton Tribune)

A Healthy Drive

Two-sport athlete Overholt seeks career in medicine

Staying healthy and fit comes natural to Kyleigh Overholt — not just as a two-sport athlete at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, but also as a student interested in the medical field.

Both interests are on display this summer; Overholt is currently attending an Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, just two weeks after she attended a medical conference in Boston.

Overholt, a rising junior from Clayton, also attended the National Academy of Future Physicians, held at the University of Massachusetts on June 25-27, as she prepares to potentially join the medical field and seeks more knowledge about the industry.

“It was very inspiring,” Overholt said. “It makes me want to get out there in the world and find what I’m really interested, and find a breakthrough or a cure.”

The conference allowed Overholt and other students from around the country to hear lectures from several leaders within the profession. 

“The first day was kind of an introduction, and we got introduced to a bunch of different people that have made medical miracles happen,” Overholt said.

This included the first physician to use an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, and the patient to benefit from that breakthrough, as well as a man with a robotic eye.

Conference organizers also told the delegates how important they’ll be to the future of medicine.

“We talked about how young adults like us who are attending the conference are the future face of medicine, and how we’re going to be the one that change how medicine works, and we can find cures to different things.”

The second day, the students heard a medical professor from Harvard University, the developer of a successful test to detect the Ebola virus, and someone who helped people in Africa learn about the harm done by their unclean drinking water.

The conference also included a patient with autoimmune encephalitis, a rare disease with only about 200 cases in the world, and the recipient of the first full face transplant.

Delegates also got to watch a live stream of a robotic hysterectomy and interact with the surgeon to ask questions.

The conference not only allowed Overholt to learn about various breakthroughs in the medical field, but allowed her to meet other like-minded students from around the country.

“It was cool to see what their schools have to offer and how they got to that specific congress I was at, and how they wanted to pursue their journey in the medical field and what they want to do, and their different views and beliefs on how things should be done in the medical field,” Overholt said.

The conference’s location also allowed Overholt to enjoy the city of Boston. 

“I walked around UMass a little bit, and it was a very pretty school, and we walked around Boston the first day we were there, and I got to walk around a lot of the parks and history sites,” Overholt said.

The Boston conference was not the only medical conference Overholt was invited to, but she and her family chose to go to Boston for financial reasons and because of the quality of the conference.

“She was invited to three different academies,” said Lisa Overholt, Kyleigh’s mother. “We chose this one because she was able to get a partial scholarship, which helped, because they’re (expensive), and because they had a lot of world-renowned, Nobel Prize-winning doctors come in to talk to them about the future of medicine and how science is proving to make people live longer.”

Kyleigh’s medical interest stems from following her mother’s profession, as Lisa is a nurse for Rabun County.

“My mom is a nurse, and hearing about all the cases she’s been a part of or seen, and I thought that was really cool,” Kyleigh Overholt said. “And I’ve always, if I’d be watching a show, and something happened, it would always interest me, and I’d find myself being more interested in that part of the movie or show than any other part. I just think medicine is so interesting.”

“I love it (that she’s getting involved in medicine),” Lisa Overholt said. “I want her to go way beyond me. She’s got a good brain, she’s smart, she’s dedicated, she works really hard for this, so I felt like it was something that we needed to make happen for her, so she can see.”

Kyleigh plans to attend another medical conference next summer, potentially abroad.

“Next summer they’re going another one, and they’re actually doing a future doctors abroad program that I have looked into,” Kyleigh said. “I would go overseas for two whole weeks, and overseas they don’t have all the regulations and restrictions that they have here, so you can actually cut on cadavers, or be in surgery rooms and help. And I also have the opportunity to go back to this again, with a whole new set of speakers.”

As she returns to school this fall, in addition to playing basketball and softball, Kyleigh will be involved in an internship with Rabun Gap’s Evelyne Sheats Lower School, which connects with her specific interest in pediatrics.

Kyleigh has been a three-sport athlete her first two years of high school, also playing volleyball, although she will not play volleyball this year due to the internship.

On the basketball court, Kyleigh averaged 3.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game in the 2017-18 season, as she was part of the Lady Eagles’ eighth consecutive Final Four appearance, ending with a North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association 3A runner-up finish. She averaged 2.2 points per game as a freshman in 2016-17.

On the softball field, Kyleigh held a .633 batting average this spring (19-for-30) with 13 RBI, 14 runs, seven doubles, one triple and one home run; she was named the team’s MVP for the 2018 season.

While not a direct segue into her medical interest, Kyleigh says her sports career is similar to her potential medical career in the amount of determination she has for both.

“I would say a lot of what I learn on the court and the field, a lot of those talents will help me in the future,” Kyleigh said. “My drive on the court, my competitiveness, my aggressiveness, my willing to do whatever it takes to win in that sport will help me in my career, and I think it’ll push me through breakthroughs.”

Returning to Boston in two years, this time for college, is a possibility for Kyleigh, who is interested in attending Boston University.

“I want to go somewhere in the city,” Kyleigh said. “I’ve looked at Boston University for several years now, and I think it’s a very pretty school, and I’d love to have the opportunity to go and study medicine there. And they’re one of the only colleges that accepts their pre-med students into their medical program.”

Kyleigh says her high school lifestyle, balancing her time as a multi-sport athlete and a student, will help prepare her for what she will one day face in medical school.

“I think it will help a lot with my time management and juggling different things at one time and how I handle things.”

Whatever Kyleigh does, Lisa says, she’ll have the right mindset to have success.

“Whatever she gets involved in, she’s dedicated,” Lisa Overholt said. “She puts her mind to it, she sees it all the way through, and I think that’s a good characteristic for someone to have at her age.”

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