Skip to main content

As her soccer career ends, medical school beckons

December 07, 2010

After three years as one of the top collegiate soccer defenders in the country – and three straight years of earning First-Team Pac-10 All-Academic honors – ASU's Liz Harkin is hanging up her soccer cleats and heading for medical school.


The Granite Bay, Calif., senior is graduating Dec. 16, having wowed an expert panel with a top-notch honors thesis on the challenges facing emergency medicine in the United States.


Graduation will be the last item on an impressive collegiate checklist for the high-achieving Harkin:


• Maintain a 3.82 GPA


• Complete a summer internship at Mayo Clinic


• Win a World Cup gold medal on the 2008 Under-20 Women’s National Team


• Earn tryouts at the Under-23 National Team and professional team FC Gold Pride


• Get a good score on her MCATs


She has decided to end her career as a soccer player to focus on medicine. While she waits to hear back from several medical schools, she’s staying involved in soccer by coaching two Under-12 girls teams for the Ahwatukee Foothills Soccer Club.


Harkin defended her honors thesis at Barrett, the Honors College, before a committee of two faculty members and one physician in November. She discovered that major challenges in emergency medicine include the lack of accurate, consistent data sources on emergency room utilization; a lack of infrastructure; and the culture of emergency medicine itself.


“We were uniformly impressed with the rigor and quality of her analysis, and the thoughtfulness Liz brought to bear,” said Jason Robert, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences who was on the committee. “She exhibits an expansive inquisitiveness and critical edge, which together helped her develop a fascinating honors thesis. She combined a careful literature review with a quantitative assessment of data at the state and national levels.”


Harkin’s major at ASU is biology and society, a program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences which explores bioethics, policy and the foundations and history of bioscience. She says she wanted a broader pre-med education than just science and technology – she wanted a foundation for how to deliver care, and how to communicate the ideas behind science.


She developed an affinity for caring for people with medical conditions through her special relationship with her 18-year-old brother, who has Down syndrome. She grew up hearing about defibrillators and pacemakers from her father, who was in cardiology equipment sales.


A decisive factor was getting into the Barrett at Mayo Program, a partnership that offers ASU honors students summer internships at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She got to watch open-heart surgeries, do case studies with pathologists and shadow doctors in clinical settings.


“A career in medicine is my ultimate goal,” says Harkin. “I came to ASU because it provides the best of both worlds, challenging me both academically and athletically.”


She’s looking forward to some relaxation with friends and family in the spring before starting medical school. After four and a half years of intense work in the classroom and on the field, she’s earned it.