Catherine’s dream was to enter the world of professional dance. Early in her life she was diagnosed with scoliosis and for years hung from a pull-up bar in hopes that this would correct the curvature of her spine.
This did not work, when she was in her very early teens it was discovered that her scoliosis was only progressing.
It was at this point, entering high school that she began to wear a back brace. For her freshman and sophomore years she changed her style in order to hide her brace. She wore baggy tops and jeans in order to conceal her treatment. In the year 2000 she had her first spinal fusion surgery from T4 to L3, only to have a second surgery soon after, and a third just months after the second. These three consecutive surgeries during her junior year in high school were not this teens biggest challenge, it was the fact that her dancing career was in grave danger.
This talent came about when she realized she had to put an end to her dream of professional dancing. She was able to get past that and turn her disappointment into fuel that has launched her into her fulfilling career today. Now, this is not to say that there was an easy transition – hardly any transitions are smooth. It took a highly skilled calculus teacher noticing her potential to begin shifting her journey away from dance and toward engineering. She chose Virginia Tech as her university of choice where she fell in love with biomedical engineering.
From that moment on she was determined to become a biomedical engineer and help others suffering in any way as a result of scoliosis. Though the pain in her back increased throughout college she opted to forego a fourth surgery in order to obtain her degree in four years like her classmates. She gained a research position with a professor working on new techniques in rod bending for future surgeries, and upon graduation began work with K2M, a company that is passionate about the treatment of spinal deformities.
Her fourth surgery was performed by a surgeon she met through her work at K2M she developed a bond with the doctor who she was entrusting her spine to and further trusted the surgical process he recommended because she had worked on some of the components in the innovative technique herself. Looking back, she would want her younger self to know that everything turns out for the best in the end. She would ask that her younger self hold on to hope, even though she remembers clearly the times when she felt hopeless after multiple failed surgeries. Catherine can ask this of her self today because thanks to the advanced technique used for her surgery she now lives relatively pain free. Today, she is a strong and passionate woman who is dedicated to improving the treatment of spinal deformities and supporting women to pursue careers in STEM fields.