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Preparing for the next step

Graduating senior Meghan Paschall has spent her time at Carolina studying science and working as a CNA in UNC Hospitals to prepare herself for a future career in medicine.

Paschall stands in a hospital room in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center. Paschall, a senior who will graduate in December, has worked as a certified nursing assistant at the Center since 2021. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill) 
Paschall stands in a hospital room in the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center. Paschall, a senior who will graduate in December, has worked as a certified nursing assistant at the Center since 2021. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill) 

Graduating senior Meghan Paschall has spent her time at Carolina pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor while caring for patients at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in the UNC School of Medicine.

“Carolina was always my number one choice because I knew I wanted to work in health care one day,” she says.

Paschall, a biology and exercise and sport science double major and chemistry minor in the College of Arts and Sciences, came to Carolina looking for a place to grow academically and socially to prepare her for her ultimate goal. After growing up in a small town in eastern North Carolina, Paschall also appreciated the chance to meet new people from different backgrounds in Chapel Hill.

“When I first came to Carolina, I appreciated the diverse environment,” Paschall says. “It gave me the chance to truly find myself and the confidence to come out to my family and friends.

“I knew Carolina had the academic tracks and resources that would help me prepare to apply for medical school and get clinical experience.”

It didn’t take the Tar Heel long before she had the opportunity to get firsthand experience. The COVID-19 pandemic caused classes to go remote at the end of Paschall’s first year, and during that time, Paschall began to think about how she could help while also earning clinical hours to prepare her medical school applications. Her solution was to earn her certified nursing assistant license during her summer break in 2020.

“I knew it was going to be a struggle to get experience in the hospital during a pandemic and there was a nursing shortage,” Paschall says. “When I returned to Chapel Hill in the fall of 2020, I began working as a CNA at UNC Hospitals, and I’ve been there ever since.”

As a CNA,  Paschall started in the float pool, where she was assigned to whichever unit needed her most that day. The experience gave her the opportunity to learn about multiple specialties and work directly with patients. In 2021, she started a permanent position as a CNA at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center, an adult and pediatric burn treatment facility.

“I’ve learned so much about medicine and what areas I do or don’t enjoy working in, but also about what it’s like to be hands-on with patients and collaborating with other healthcare professionals,” Paschall says.

During her time working at the hospital, Paschall also added an exercise and sports science major to her biology major and earned a chemistry minor, all in the pursuit of learning as much about science and medicine as possible as an undergraduate.

“One valuable thing I’ve learned as a Carolina student is how to balance my responsibilities while utilizing every minute of my day to work toward my goals,” Paschall says.

Paschall is now interviewing at medical schools and preparing to begin the next step in her journey to becoming a doctor.

“Carolina has prepared me for any medical school I attend and helped me mature into a good student and working professional,” Paschal says. “I’m leaving Carolina knowing who I am and what I want to do with my life.”