Mid-Pacific encourages students to ask the tough questions and explore all the possibilities!
Posted on September 14, 2017 by Scot Allen
When a typical student sits down for dinner, the conversation usually drifts to "what did you do in school today?" This is true for Mid-Pacific senior Olivia Ann Collis, although the conversation with her physician parents will likely take said table talk to the realm of "what did you discover today?" or "how many lives did you save?"
Olivia is a member of a multi-generation medical family on both her dad's and mom's side. In her spare time after competing in sports and working on her full International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program coursework, she assists her father Tarquin K. Collis, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Moanalua, in research activities. Her mother is Katherine W. Kingsley, MD, an internal medicine physician at Kaiser. Katherine is a third-generation physician and met Tarquin while studying at Cornell University.
"She (Olivia) is an interesting kid in that she is capable of doing a lot of things," says Tarquin Collis. "She has been a big help at the hospital. On my dad's side, I am part of a six-generation line of doctors. My daughters could be the seventh generation!"
"I like talking with both of my parents about their work," Olivia says. "It's what I have grown up with. Especially this year, since I have taken an interest in biology, I am able to understand a good amount of it." Of course, Olivia hopes to be admitted to an excellent university. "I would really love to be a doctor, or to be a writer or editor for a magazine or a newsletter." Her love of writing and interest in medicine led her to assist her father with several projects at Kaiser. She found herself doing liver cancer research at Kaiser pretty much the whole school year. "He told me about a Kaiser research Symposium where doctors present cases. He told me about a case and we started working together to make a poster for the event."
"My Dad's an infectious disease doctor and he shares some of his cases with me, and that's really interesting," she says. "He is the doctor you consult if you have a really bad infectious disease of any type."
She contributed to an article for the Hawaii Journal of Medicine and Public Health (August, 2017 edition), and even wrote parts of it, "but there are certain parts that were far above my level of expertise," she says. "There were a lot of requirements that could only be met by a doctor, but I was involved as I could be!"
Since 2016 she also assisted with a case report, looking through all of the past records at the hospital and creating a database of patients who had Hepatitis C and liver cancer. Essentially, the goal was to browse through hundreds of records to find correlations.
She describes the case study of a woman who was believed to have ovarian cancer. However, the patient's primary doctors observed yellow spots on the mass. "That is when my dad was called in for a consultation," she says. "They took a fluid sample of what they thought was cancer, but it tested positive for TB." She notes that it is interesting that CA125 levels can be elevated in patients with ovarian cancer or tuberculosis.
The bottom line was the patient lived and was quite obviously very relieved with the new diagnosis. "She was a 36-year-old woman and thought she was going to die, but she has made a steady recovery."
"It turned out to be a rare version of TB that can mimic cancer in many ways," Dr. Tarquin Collis says. "She was writing her will and thought she was going to die, so it was pretty neat to tell her she had something we could fix. She is basically free of TB now."
"The study of living things is interesting," Olivia says. "When I am in biology, to learn how the human body works is really cool to me. It is something you take for granted, but the more you learn how neurons work, and cells work and how viruses are transmitted it is just never ending."
"It was really cool that the case study got published. I'm not really sure how me being a student factored into it. My dad has been talking to me about a new case report in which he, myself and my sister Sophie (who is now in college studying biology and pre-med) could collaborate on."
Both of Olivia's parents are very health conscious. There are lots of salads and fruit on the dinner table and hand sanitizer is always at the ready. "My parents being doctors has influenced me to try really hard in school," she says. "They worked super hard in high school and super hard in college to pursue their dreams. It really inspired me to challenge myself in everything I do."
Her favorite classes are English, biology, and Spanish. Olivia says she really enjoys the students in her IB classes." It is really challenging and rigorous, but I've been able to meet a bunch a new people and have classes with people who really challenge me. It is a good environment and helps me better myself."
She notes several challenges at Mid-Pacific, including the transition from general classes to double science classes and then full IB. "Tests were harder. I was around kids who were way smarter than me. I have been here since third grade, so it is pretty much my home. After the first quarter, I adapted and I am really happy I made that choice."
"I've made some of the best friends I may ever have here at Mid-Pacific," she says. "I just love the sense of the social community here. You don't know everyone super well, but you know a lot of people that you can talk to in your classes. What I really love is that it is a really inclusive community. There is really no social hierarchy to overcome from a student's perspective. It feels like a safe community here, which I think is awesome."
Mid-Pacific encourages students to ask tough questions and explore all possibilities. Olivia said she marvels at the complexity of the human body. Her message for fellow students? "Never rest. Always keep looking!"