From Sacrifice to Sonography: Kayla (Mackenzie) Churchill ’18 Weathers Rigors, Enjoys Results
This story is part of a series following University of Findlay alumni who have gone on to have meaningful lives and productive careers right here in the local Findlay community. Their stories provide a glimpse of the difference UF students and graduates make in the lives and businesses of our immediate area, and of the impact a UF education can have right here at home.
The price of success is hard work.
That’s part of a quote taken from legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi. Simple, yet a bit scary; particularly, perhaps, for new college students like alumna Kayla (Mackenzie) Churchill ‘18 once was. A successful high school student – she was the valedictorian of her senior class at North Union High School in Richwood, OH, consistently carrying a nearly 4.0 G.P.A. – Churchill knew how to work hard; but, college work isn’t high school work, and when she entered the sonography program at University of Findlay, a particularly fast-paced and highly involved program, Churchill learned a lot about who she was, finding herself more than capable of meeting the challenges that both a UF education and a professional career bring forth.
Churchill had come to UF with an intended focus in a different area, but, as many freshmen before her have done, she began following a different path after the well-rounded group of classes she initially experienced. On break after her freshman fall semester, she said, she vividly remembered lying on her couch at home, scrolling through all of the majors that UF offered. “I stopped on sonography,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, but I literally had no idea what [sonography] was, so I looked into it and was amazed how much an ultrasound tech did. It was so much more than just ‘looking at babies all day’ like so many people think.” She talked it over with both her family and boyfriend, and they were very encouraging. When she returned to campus, she spoke with her advisor, then spoke to a professor in the program and learned that, based on her transcript, she could start as soon as the next fall semester.
Initially, and by that time, however, Churchill found the program to be full. “I would have easily gotten in with my GPA and transcript,” Churchill said, “but the students had already been chosen. My heart dropped. I thought I had finally figured out what I had wanted to do, and all of a sudden, I felt like it was going to be impossible. I completed my application anyway and hoped and prayed that I would get in.” She turned it over to God, stayed busy, and kept her faith. A few weeks later, her prayers were answered when she got an email saying she had been accepted, and would, indeed, be able to start in the fall. That summer, while working full time at her summer job at a hotel, she took the two classes she needed to get the last prerequisites done, and she was ready to go. “God knew what he was doing,” Churchill said.
Each general sonography class lasted just three weeks, so once Churchill was fully entrenched into the program, she tended to spend more time studying than she ever had before. She committed fully to her education, spending her free time in the lab practicing scanning. There were multiple exams, as well, but, according to Churchill, it was all a testament to how well UF prepares its students for their careers. Soon, the spring semester and 40 hour a week clinicals, yet another example of the experiential learning that UF and its faculty view as of equal, if not more importance than of the classroom experience, came around. The time spent, the ups and downs, the “price” that Coach Lombardi talked about, are all met head on when getting to see what life after college might look like for students. It requires hard work; but, by this time, Churchill had acclimated herself to the rigors of the sonography program at UF, and poured herself into learning as much as she could during the clinical period. She had three different opportunities at nearby offices to do so: at Sunforest OBGYN in Sylvania, at Maumee OBGYN in Maumee, and at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay. “At all three, I learned how to work in what would soon be my real work environment,” Churchill said. “I learned almost everything I needed to be a sonographer during this time. Although it was so fast-paced, I am so thankful that it put me in the position to graduate so early and be so prepared for my career.”
Her dedication paid off, as, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in just two years, Churchill began her career with Blanchard Valley Health System in September of 2018, eventually becoming a full-time general diagnostic medical sonographer. She rotates between the hospital and Eastern Woods Outpatient Center, and is on-call at least one night a week. As an ultrasound tech, she performs a variety of exams. She does abdominal ultrasounds of almost all abdominal organs on men and women; OBGYN ultrasounds of the uterus, ovaries, and pregnancies, as well as some, specifically, on babies including neonatal hips, brains, pylorus, and spines, and various ultrasound-guided procedures such as paracentesis, thoracentesis, biopsies, and drainages. “We do ultrasounds on much more than just pregnant women. In fact, at the hospital, the majority of what we do is the other exams. I love my career because [the variety] is interesting. Every patient is different,” Churchill explained.
Churchill counts, along with her determination and solid work ethic, her faith, family, and friends with supporting her through the commitment to success. Her parents, who didn’t attend college, encouraged her greatly, as did her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband, Nik. Her freshman roommate at UF became “her best friend and as close to a sister as I’ll ever have,” and served as her maid of honor; and knowing God, she said, is a “huge part” of who she is. “I truly believe that being able to have God in my life to lean on and trust has helped me become who I am today. I know that there is no way I could have done any of this without Him.”
Seeing how far she has come from the family’s first college student to her, now, meaningful life and productive career, Churchill said, is often hard to believe. She and Nik welcomed a baby boy, Liam, and bought a house last year, and she is a walking testament to reaping the benefits of the price of hard work. “The University of Findlay prepared me for my career and life by teaching me everything I needed to know about sonography, she said. “I truly love my life now and am in awe of everything God has done,” she said. “I graduated high school as valedictorian with 35 credit hours, completed my bachelor degree in only two years at UF, got an amazing career that I love, married the love of my life, and am starting a family in our new home! All in just five years. I am truly lucky to have this life, this family, these friends, and these memories.”