Many people say they want to change the world and make a difference, but for pre-medical senior Kathrine Gerhardt, this isn’t just a grandiose statement.
As founder and president of the Northwest chapter of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Gerhardt takes her leadership role seriously.
“When I was a freshman I reached out to my academic advisor, Julie Johnson, about starting the club,” Gerhardt said. “This is something I had been interested in starting back in high school but didn’t. Once here on campus, I knew working with UNICEF was something I was interested in, so I worked with Julie and Dee Dino to begin preparations for the club.”
Once they had everything they needed, Gerhardt and her friends went to Student Senate.
“Julie became our advisor, and then I worked to gain interest among students before going to Student Senate,” Gerhardt said. “Once we had a group of interested students, another officer and I presented in front of student senate and got their approval to become a club.”
UNICEF is an initiative to help children in more than 190 countries around the world, advocating for girls equality, childhood survival and emergency relief. The chapter at Northwest supports these initiatives through education, fundraising and advocacy.
“As an organization it’s grown from being just the handful of people who supported me in starting the club to including many other students on campus,” Gerhardt said. “We have been able to host events to educate ourselves and the community, along with hosted fundraising events and letter-writing campaigns to congress members.”
Gerhardt helped organize the club’s Water Walk during the 2017-18 school year to bring awareness to the water crisis around the world and how it disproportionately affected children since they aren’t as fully developed. She has plans to do another Water Walk in March.
Biology psychology senior, Alyssa Lincoln was a member of Student Senate when Gerhardt first approached with the idea of brining UNICEF to Northwest.
“I think during her time here she has affected so much change and challenged so much thought,” Lincoln said. “UNICEF isn’t a very controversial organization so it was kind of a no brainer for us (Student Senate).”
Lincoln has been in multiple classes with Gerhardt.
“She’s everything we look for in a Bearcat,” Lincoln said. “She’s subtle but quite possibly the most profound Bearcat we have. She’s academically driven beyond belief. She holds herself to such a high standard… she’s a gritty learner.”
Gerhardt also attended a UNICEF conference in Washington D.C.
“It was a life changing experience that I will never forget,” Gerhardt said. “It has driven me to make the club more successful in helping children across the globe. The conference also helped me grow as president of the club and as a person. As president my role is to help the club grow and to work with our officers to lead the events that we host.”
Gerhardt’s passion for helping others is partially what motivated her to want to become a doctor, particularly with Doctors Without Borders.
“Originally I wanted to be a veterinarian,” Gerhardt said. “But I realized it wasn’t a perfect fit. Then in high school I took biomedical classes and there was no going back.”
When teachers ask young children, usually around kindergarten, what they want to be when they grow up, many say they want to be a doctor. However, only roughly 3 percent of the U.S. population has medical licenses according to statisa.com
So when Gerhardt tells people she is a pre-medical major the usual reaction she gets is: “Good luck.”
“Med school is competitive,” Gerhardt said.
It’s so competitive that Gerhardt sent applications to both medical schools and graduate schools around the country.
“I’ve applied to places in New York, Tennessee, all over the place,” Gerhardt said.
Gerhardt spent most of her life in the St. Louis area, though she did spend some time of her childhood in Singapore.
“I was little when we lived there and I don’t remember the cultural differences,” Gerhardt said. “I just remember little kid memories like going swimming.”
As Gerhardt looks towards her future in the medical field, she continues to have high hopes for the initiative she helped bring to campus.
“I hope that the club is able to continue addressing global issues that are affecting kids, whether it be through holding conversations during our club meetings or reaching out to the community,” Gerhardt said.
“At the conference in D.C., an overarching theme was that ‘a child knows no politics’. We have to be advocates for children across the globe who may suffer from issues that are out of their hands. The member size of the organization is not what matters. It’s the effects of educating ourselves and the community that will make a difference at the end of the day. My hope for the organization is that it continues to have an impact, no matter the size.”