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MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public Relations Research Grants MUSC home page Community Happenings Campus News Applause


Child brings passion to student's work

by Dawn Brazell
Public Relations
Katlyn McGrattan learned from the volunteer work in her life a lesson that takes some people decades to learn—that passion keeps hard work from turning into burnout.
This revelation came, in part, from a young boy with cerebral palsy. When McGrattan came from New York State to Charleston to attend graduate school at MUSC’s College of Health Professions, she needed to work to help pay the bills. She decided to help the McCurry family with their son, Luke.
It was supposed to be for one evening a week, but then she got involved with The Miracle League and found herself at the McCurry’s house at all hours.
“They’ve kind of taken me in as their second family. They’re my Southern parents, I feel.”
Eric Glover and Katlyn McGrattan with Luke McCurry. McGrattan will earn her master of science in rehabilitation science communication sciences degree today.

Luke’s mom, Beth McCurry, would agree. She said she was scared that McGrattan wouldn’t be able to handle her son, who has severe cerebral palsy and a hearing impairment. “Katlyn jumped right in with no hesitation and formed a bond with him immediately. At first I was concerned because she is very petite, but I learned right away that she is small but mighty.”
McGrattan said Luke has taught her balance. She had a professor in her freshman year in undergraduate school at the College of St. Rose in Albany who taught her that claiming time efficiency was the key to success. The teacher recommended having some form of study material available at all times, even the three minutes that it takes to wait in the grocery line. McGrattan took that to heart, and the advice served her well.
Her typical day as a MUSC graduate student would begin at 4:50 a.m., when she would run on the treadmill while reviewing class notes. The rest of the day was planned out to the minute with study times inserted into any down slots. This non-stop schedule used to get to her, as she was trying to speed up time until school was done, she said.
“Interestingly enough, I soon realized that the commitments you make throughout the day don’t work as a math equation—each added commitment weighing you down more and more. Instead, I found that certain commitments subtracted from this daily stress.”
She learned this from Luke and her years spent mentoring an adult with Asperger’s Disorder, who needs help with his social and communication skills.
“It’s through my work and volunteer experiences with these families that I find I am able to appreciate those parts of my life that at one point had been my headaches. Oddly enough, the reason I decided to pursue my doctorate did not come during a clinical experience or a classroom, it came from one of these extra commitments with a child that has cerebral palsy. The time I have spent with him and his family has provided me the passion to want to find answers that so far have not been found.”
One of her MUSC professors, Bonnie Martin-Harris, Ph.D. said McGrattan is a voracious learner, who drives herself without imposing on others. As one of three sisters, McGrattan has taken the initiative to fund her education through various employment opportunities that have enriched her research and education.
Martin-Harris said she likes how McGrattan is motivated to seek answers to improve patient care based on her sincere compassion and empathy for the plights of families with whom she has become involved. She’s organized and systematic in mapping her career course in the study of innovative approaches to improve pediatric feeding, swallowing and communication disorders.
This is high praise for McGrattan, who has set Martin-Harris as one of her role models. McGrattan walked out of one of Martin-Harris’ classes one day and told a friend that her goal was to be just like her. Her friend laughed.
“I said, ‘No, seriously, I want to be just like her.’ She was amazing. She was professional and didn’t get pushed around by anyone. She knew her stuff.”
McGrattan, who has decided to pursue her doctorate in health and rehabilitation sciences, said she hopes to teach one day and continue research to find better treatments for the speech and communication disorders that can severely affect the quality of life of patients. She also wants to develop a systematic plan of treatment for communication disorders in hospitals since there can be a wide disparity in standards, she said.
In the meantime, she jokes with Luke that she’s still working on a cure for tongue thrust, a condition that affects his ability to eat and talk. He’ll laugh. The laugh puts everything in perspective for McGrattan.
“He has such a great attitude. It’s hard for him to write or even eat or talk, and he just never complains. He’s at the top of my list as something I can aspire to be. I feel lucky to have met him.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

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