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TEMPE, Ariz. – Not much gets past Liz Harkin of Granite Bay, Calif. She”s competitive to the core, and that laser focus has brought her accolades on the soccer field and in the classroom.

One of the top soccer defenders in the country, with an invitation to the women’s national team and a draft offer from a pro team, the Arizona State University senior has finished her collegiate athletic career. But now she’s zeroing in on medical school, studying for the MCAT, shadowing an orthopedic surgeon at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital.

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She’s also completing an internship with Mayo Clinic and working on an honors thesis on emergency medicine in Arizona.

‘A career in medicine has always been the goal for me,’ says Harkin, who has a 3.82 GPA and has earned First-Team Pac-10 All-Academic honors for three years. ‘Academics have always come first, and I came to ASU because it provides the best of both worlds, challenging both my academic and athletic abilities.’

She grew up hearing about defibrillators and pacemakers, since her father was in cardiology equipment sales in Granite Bay, Calif. She developed an affinity for caring for people with medical conditions through her special relationship with her 17-year-old brother, who has Down syndrome.

But the clincher was getting into the Barrett at Mayo Program, a partnership with the Barrett Honors College that offers summer internships at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She watched open-heart surgeries, did case studies with pathologists and shadowed doctors in clinical settings. The internship led to a Barrett-Mayo premed scholars program here.

‘There are about 40 of us in the program. We go to lectures, work with cadavers, work in the lab and shadow the (Scottsdale) Mayo physicians in the emergency room. It’s an amazing opportunity I’d never have had elsewhere.’

Her major at ASU is biology and society, a program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences which explores bioethics, policy and the foundations and history of bioscience.

‘I wanted a broader premed education than just science and technology. I wanted to explore other aspects of medicine.

‘I’m getting a foundation for how to deliver care, how to educate people. All the technical stuff is great, but you have to be able to communicate the ideas behind science.’

Meanwhile she’s involved in soccer tryouts in March, having been invited to earn a spot on the USA’s Under-23 Women’s National Team. She was on the Under-20 National Team in 2008, which won a gold medal at the World Cup in Chile.

She’s also in tryouts at FC Gold Pride, the Bay Area women’s professional soccer team. Both are part-time gigs, with seasonal play if she makes it through a series of tryouts.

Her professors have been very accommodating, Harkin says. And if she’s successful, she’ll defer medical school for a year or two.

‘I’m just honored to be invited by these teams. I’ll take the MCAT in May and start applying to medical schools in June. I’m going to continue juggling both. But I’ve never seen athletics as a career.’

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