Turnley takes scholarship to the largest medical center in the world
Kamari Turnley always wanted to work in the medical field. She was a Lourdes Hospital Rising Star in high school. Her father, Marcus, is a physician assistant-certified at Mercy Health-Lourdes Hospital, and Kamari felt that working in that field would be a way for her to help others.
Today, she works in the neuroscience intensive care unit at the largest medical center in the world, a career path aided by the McCracken County Community Career Endowment Fred and Peggy Paxton Scholarship.
Turnley was a member of the PaxtonScholars Class 2, graduating from Paducah Tilghman High School in 2013. She took her scholarship and laptop with her to the University of Kentucky, where she earned a degree in health, society and populations.
"I got the scholarship when I was a junior in high school," she said. "That was pretty different, because most of the time, you don't get a scholarship until you're a senior. So, having the PaxtonScholar as a junior means you really start thinking about college earlier than expected.
"I started doing ACT prep, narrowing down the schools that I wanted to apply to, what they required, what I wanted to do with my life. I think, as a junior, it made me become more focused."
At UK, Turnley joined the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She earned a William C. Parker scholarship and forged her leadership skills in several areas in college.
"That was the best time of my life," she said. "I was a diversity ambassador for the Health Colleges, I was a homecoming liaison and, of course, I enjoyed the basketball games and the football games.
"I felt like I was always a leader in high school, even in my church."
After graduating from Kentucky in 2017, Turnley went straight into the nursing master's program at Bellarmine University in Louisville.
"It had a more intimate learning style," she said. "At UK, I had about 300 students in a class, but at Bellarmine, it was 30 or 40, so that's a big difference."
Today, Turnley works in the neuroscience intensive care unit at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, the largest medical center in the world.
"On average, I see two critical patients a day," she said. "Normally, they are healthy adults like us, but something tragic happened to them, like a stroke, an aneurism, bleeding on the brain or a head injury through a car accident.
"It's a very emotionally draining job, because the people are young, like in their 40s or 50s -- like my parents' age or my age, even -- and you deal with families and see their heartbreak and dealing with a lot of death -- and that's my typical day!"
Turnley said she felt like she was always groomed for working in the medical field.
"I always had a passion for helping people," she said. "Just finding my niche was the issue. Nursing means you are in the health care field, you are giving direct patient care. There are so many possibilities, so that's why I chose it.
"It's challenging, but it's rewarding. I've learned so much in the seven months that I've been here (at Texas Medical Center) - so, so, so much."
Turnley said that being a part of the PaxtonScholars Program was a positive part of her life as a teen.
"I'm really appreciative to the Paxtons for their generosity," she said. "I'm appreciative to the McCracken County community for giving this opportunity to students, especially at an earlier age. When you start thinking about (college) early, I just think you have a better outcome - and they help you through every step of the way."
Turnley is the daughter of Marcus and Arveta Turnley of Paducah.