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Pursuit of Health Care Dream Leads Back to Kansas Roots

Unwavering support at home and positive experiences in AHEC programs strengthened this student’s resolve

Chelsea CowartMeet Chelsea Cowart, a medical professional from Herington, Kansas, whose passion for health care was evident from an early age. Despite growing up in a family full of teachers, Chelsea aspired to be a brain surgeon —an idea her mother excitedly encouraged her to explore. 

In high school, she and a classmate co-founded a HOSA: Future Health Professionals chapter at her school under the guidance of the teacher who always encouraged her to follow her dreams, anatomy and physiology teacher Kim Coover. With the charter held by the KU Medical Center Area Health Education Center (AHEC), HOSA provides skill-based competitions and networking opportunities with other students, as well as a variety of health care professionals. 

During her time in HOSA, Chelsea job shadowed a local orthopedic surgeon, observing surgeries and learning how to suture. Those experiences helped earn her a spot in the Top Ten at HOSA nationals in her first year.   

While still in high school, Chelsea also attended the Area Health Education Center program Women in Health Care: The Next Generation — a program that brings young women to KU Medical Center and provides them with the opportunity to interact with health professions students and faculty. 

Chelsea Cowart posed in HOSA uniform

Chelsea enthusiastically describes the Women in Health Care experience as "AWESOME." She credits the program for solidifying her health care goals. Conversations with a wide variety of health care professionals during that visit opened her eyes to the myriad of possibilities within the health care system. 

Within the first few weeks of college, however, it became clear just how much time it would take to pursue becoming a surgeon. Feeling unsure she wanted to dedicate that much time, an advisor presented the idea of pursuing another area of health care. Somewhat frustrated by the conversation, Chelsea questioned whether she was doing the right thing and considered leaving health care altogether to pursue teaching like her mother and other members of her family. 

Chelsea called her mother for advice. 

After listening patiently while Chelsea expressed her confusion and concerns, her mother reminded her of the positive experiences she had with the AHEC programs in high school and how they brought great excitement and motivation. Knowing that health care was Chelsea’s passion, her mother encouraged her to press on and consider nursing with a long-range goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. That unwavering support, coupled with her fond memories of AHEC programs, strengthened Chelsea’s resilience. 

Navigating through the challenges, she finished the nursing program at Emporia State University and worked in a Manhattan emergency room for two and a half years. She served as a COVID nurse in July 2020 — a true test of her mettle. Despite the challenges she faced, she kept reminding herself that she was on the right path. 

“I kept telling myself to just keep breathing, because I’m exactly where I need to be,” Chelsea says. 

Currently enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Fort Hays State University, Chelsea works as quality assurance and risk management, education, and employee health at Morris County Hospital in Council Grove. She plans to continue serving Council Grove as a nurse practitioner upon graduation in 2026. 

While the orthopedic surgeon who guided her in her first set of skills has passed away, Chelsea and her high school teacher and HOSA advisor, Kim Coover, are still in contact today and even work in the same town. When reflecting on Kim’s influence and support during her early years and her friendship today, Chelsea simply stated, “she’s the best.” 

Chelsea’s advice for future health care workers is, “It’s not easy to get where you want to be, but there are many different ways to get there. Keep your mind open to ALL the different possibilities. It’s difficult, but it’s very rewarding.” 

Chelsea’s journey, fueled by the inspiration of AHEC programs, stands as a testament to the diverse paths one can take in the pursuit of health care excellence and how those paths can lead back to rural roots and the advancement of the health of its communities.

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University of Kansas Medical Center
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