Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
MEDICAL RESEARCH is her driving passion. In fact, 17-year-old Kimberly (Kim) Burnett is fiercely determined to make a significant contribution in the field of genetic and cancer research that will, hopefully, one day lead to the cure for the world's most deadly disease.
Kim's dream was inspired by the story of Henrietta Lacks, the African-American female who died of cancer in 1951 and her cells harvested and used in medical research. The cell line, called HeLa, became immensely valuable to research studies and led to major medical breakthroughs. Lacks' cells were, in fact, the first known human immortal cell line for medical research.
"My interest in medical research was really piqued by her story. And I realised that, more than anything, I wanted to dedicate my life to genetic and cancer research, and I know I will succeed in that field, because I am willing to put in the hard work," said the Immaculate Conception High School student.
And already she is showing great potential on that journey. With an outstanding achievement of 10 distinctions in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), Kim is confident this is just the beginning of greater things to come.
With a strong faith in God and driven to achieve, the lack of necessary resources did not hinder her goal for top grades in CSEC.
"My mom didn't always have it to give me, and sometimes she couldn't even buy the books I needed, but I knew I had to find a way," she shared with The Gleaner.
So using her ingenuity, Kim made great use of the Internet, second- hand books, borrowed books from friends, the library, or her teachers to get the information she needed.
She also applied the disciplines learnt in football, chess and science clubs to her studies.
"My extra-curricular activities helped me to study more effectively. For instance, in chess you have to focus a lot and know your moves before you even play them, and you're constantly being made to change your plans based on what your opponent does. In the same way, leading up to CSEC, you realise some strategies you had in terms of studying and doing school work had to change, and so you had to accommodate accordingly," she explained.
"I love the sciences, so the science club taught me a lot, while football taught me time management."
She added with a smile, "Of course, these activities were also a release from all the book work."
Although she put in the hard work, trusted in God and believed she would do well, Kim still harboured a measure of doubt about her success in the exams.
On the day the results were to be released, Kim was full of anxiety. However, she fell asleep that night without knowing. At 3:00 a.m., Kimberly was shocked out of her sleep when her mom, Maud Burnett, burst into her room, all excited with the news.
She achieved grade one in all 10 subjects - biology, chemistry, English A, English B, french, human and social biology, information technology, mathematics, physics and social studies.
Kim was speechless.
"After it finally sank in that I actually got 10 ones, all I could say was 'thank you, God', and then I went back to sleep," she said with a beautiful smile.
"It was a lot of hard work and self-discipline, knowing which subject demanded more work, and knowing how to balance extra curricular activities, so I wasn't forced to drop anything. I also tried to be calm, and I prayed a lot."
Kim is extremely grateful to her mom, family, friends and the great teachers she had.
Now in sixth form at Immaculate, the intelligent teen is looking forward to similar results in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations. She will be focusing on the sciences as her next step to get into medical school.
After becoming a medical doctor, she will then launch into the research field. Kim is hoping to eventually get a scholarship to help her further her studies.
"I think that if you want something and you really, really want it, you won't see one path to getting it, but you will see multiple paths; you try to create opportunities and don't just wait for them to come and fall in your lap," noted the young lady, who also loves music, reading and writing.
"You can go out there and seek help from friends, family members, teachers, the library, the Internet, people who are willing to help - just make the best use of every opportunity. Once persons see that you are willing, hardworking and have the potential, they will do all they can to help you."
"I think that if you want something and you really, really want it, you won't see one path to getting it, but you will see multiple paths; you try to create opportunities and don't just wait for them to come and fall in your lap,"