The Long and Winding Road the College Career of Cassie Kirby

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” says Cassie Kirby, in looking back at the circuitous route she has taken through college. As a resident of Kentucky, Cassie started out at Eastern Kentucky University studying occupational therapy. She says that she found a lack of extra-curricular activities and an abundance of bills. Bored, she returned home and enrolled at Northern Kentucky University. The change of direction allowed her to become more educated about financial aid, but still unfulfilled academically.

At that point, Cassie decided to take a break from college and accepted a full-time reservationist position for Delta Air Lines. While living with her parents, Cassie says she endured rigid working conditions for a few years. Finally, she made plans to leave Delta and find a job more in line with her ultimate career goals — whatever they might be. She was babysitting the sons of UC employees Paula and Bob Breslin; Bob was in environmental health at the time. He mentioned Cassie to Susan Pinney, a research associate professor in environmental health, and asked if she needed any part-time help. Cassie found herself working for the University of Cincinnati.

“I started working part time and was offered a full-time position as a research assistant about six months later,” says Cassie. “It catapulted me forward!”

Cassie worked for more than three years in the Genetic Epidemiology of Lung Cancer Consortium (GELCC). With the grant funds running out, Cassie moved into the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAPS) while waiting for GELCC to be re-funded. At CCAPS, Cassie worked on air sampling in children’s homes. Recognizing the need for experience in a clinical environment, Cassie applied for a position at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Cassie now works at the Cincinnati Center for Eosinophilic Disorders at Children’s.

Cassie enjoys working in a clinical environment.

Cassie enjoys working in a clinical environment.

“Children’s presented a unique opportunity to be in a clinical environment with patients while they’re being treated and to do research at the same time,” Cassie says. “I have more autonomy than I’ve ever had. It’s more like a career than a job.”

Cassie is now looking into graduate programs. As a child, she wanted to be a doctor, but was intimidated by the required upper-level biology and chemistry college courses as a high-school student. Now, with the confidence of several years of education and relevant experience, she is thinking of applying to physicians’ assistant programs, a growing field.

“Everything leads into the next chapter,” she says.

Cassie hopes to go to grad school to become a physicians' assistant.

Cassie hopes to go to grad school to become a physicians' assistant.

Editor Pat Walsh notes a difference between ambition and dedication. Ambition, he says, is focusing on the end goal, whereas dedication means you see the process as the prize. Cassie definitely has ambition



“No one is going to take better care of me than me,” she says. And what a great gift to give yourself – a college degree!

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