When she becomes a psychiatrist, Papillion-La Vista High School graduating senior Alexis Hamilton (above, second from left) wants to use technology to reach people in rural communities who would not otherwise be able to access the care they need. That’s good, because according to a 2017 report by the physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, there’s a severe and escalating shortage of psychiatrists, especially in rural areas.

One solution is telepsychiatry, a branch of telemedicine, which is the practice of using technologies like Skype to provide healthcare from a distance. Hamilton sees telepsychiatry as a crucial tool to address the need for mental healthcare workers and plans to incorporate it into her path as a psychiatrist.

“Especially people out in rural areas out in Nebraska don’t always have access to people in the mental health field. Telepsychiatry will help me interact with those people, and it will help make their lives easier,” Hamilton said, adding that it will make her life easier, too, by saving her on driving time to distant clinics.

The motivation to become a psychiatrist comes from a personal place for Hamilton: her mother struggled with mental illness. That struggle profoundly impacted Hamilton and her siblings. But despite these struggles, Hamilton has worked hard to excel in every aspect of her life.

She is now reaping the rewards of that hard work: she just received a scholarship to Doane University, where she will double major in Psychology and Spanish. In a few years, she hopes to attend UNMC for med school.

Currently, she participates in UNMC’s High School Alliance Academy (HSAA), a health sciences enrichment program that allows high school juniors and seniors with the opportunity to observe, shadow and work alongside health care professionals and researchers at UNMC.

“It’s fun because you get to interact with the different professors there,” Hamilton said of the HSAA. “Interacting with someone who researches cancer for their living is really awesome and interesting.”

In addition to her academic work, Hamilton runs cross country and track, wrestles, and swims. She volunteers at her wrestling club, coaches girls wrestling, participates in National Honors Society and the AIM Upward Bound program, sits on the Honors Council at HSAA, serves as Senior Secretary for Papillion-La Vista, and even helps out her school’s counselors.

“I am in everything,” she said. “I can’t even name them all.”

Not surprisingly, given her career interest, Hamilton said her favorite class in high school has been AP Psychology.

Surprisingly, given everything she’s involved in, she calls herself a procrastinator.

“I am a procrastinator. It’s not always fun. I try really hard to balance my time even though I do procrastinate.”

She clarified that she schedules out her entire life and is usually able to stick to the schedule.

“If it doesn’t get done, there’s always tomorrow,” she said, affecting an air of wisdom, before wisecracking, “There’s two ways you could look at that: a good way, and a bad way.”

Hamilton said she prized her time in the AIM Upward Bound program and developed a positive rapport with AIM staff.

“I feel like I have really close relationships with them and can talk with them about anything. It can be school-related or I can just joke with them,” she said.

She appreciates the help she received from AIM in researching and applying for scholarships. “I wouldn’t be able to go to college without the scholarships I have gotten.”

Most importantly, Hamilton said Upward Bound helped her understand that STEM is for everyone.

“It’s really opened my mind, especially as a female that wants to go into the medical world, to how I can use technology, math, and sciences to make sure I am successful,” she said.

And, not surprisingly, given her passion for helping people, Hamilton wants to work to make sure other girls know they too can be successful in STEM.

“I want to give girls the voice that, yes, you can like science, you can like math and still have fun with it. I think Upward Bound is a great motivator for girls to get into technology.”