A mission trip to Manila, Philippines, during high school gave Baker University senior Meg Detweiler a glimpse of what she wanted her future to hold.
“Before that, I was very opposed to careers in medicine because my dad is a doctor and I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps,” Detweiler said, “but after seeing such great need, I knew that I wanted to be able to tangibly help other people.”
During subsequent trips to Mexico, Detweiler fell in love with Latin American culture while realizing that she wanted to pursue mission work. Having studied Spanish since middle school, she committed herself to becoming bilingual in addition to becoming a doctor so that she could work more fluidly, personably, and compassionately with patients from other cultures.
Detweiler spent her freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she pursued a major in Latin American studies. However, just two weeks before the beginning of her sophomore year, she learned that her financial aid would be abruptly and significantly reduced. With a short timeline to find another place to pursue her education, she remembered her visit to Baker as a high school senior.
“I immediately called Baker’s admissions office and explained the situation, thinking that a small school would be more likely to accommodate my situation,” Detweiler said. “I was right, and the admissions counselor immediately gave me all of the tools I needed to start the transfer process and gave me her cell phone number so I could text her if I needed anything.”
The warm and personal attention she received was a comfort in what was an otherwise turbulent situation.
“Baker handled my circumstances so well, which made me feel much better about the whirlwind of my life,” she said.
Detweiler entered the Baker community knowing just one person on campus. Emily Riggs had been one of her best friends at Emporia (Kansas) High School before she graduated in 2015. Once at Baker, Riggs joined Alpha Chi Omega sorority, and then encouraged Detweiler to consider Greek life, as well, when she arrived on campus. Detweiler had little interest until she began spending more time with Riggs and her Alpha Chi Omega sisters.
“They were the first people at Baker to invite me to do things and to reach out to make me feel welcomed, so I warmed up to the idea of sorority life pretty quickly,” Detweiler said.
“Meg has been an outstanding member of Alpha Chi Omega since joining and she will truly be missed after she graduates,” said Rachel Shuck, the sorority’s cochapter advisor and a 2012 graduate of Baker. “She truly lives out the organizations values of friendship, leadership, learning and service each and every day. She is genuine, caring, and always willing to help out.”
The spirit that Shuck describes also shines through in Detweiler’s work away from campus. She is in her second year as an assistant coach at the Baldwin City location of Girls on the Run (GOTR), an organization “dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams,” a sentiment that both dovetails and resonates with the “real strong women” phrase associated with Detweiler’s Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
“It’s one of my favorite things I do, and I can see what a huge difference it makes in my girls’ demeanor each day and in how they handle conflict,” she said. “I have also participated in the GOTR SoleMates program for the last two years. SoleMates raise money for GOTR while training for an athletic event—last year I ran the Rock the Parkway half-marathon, and this year I’m riding my bike in the Dirty Kanza race.”
Detweiler hopes to find a GOTR team to coach in the Kansas City area after graduation, but finding time will likely be a bigger test at that point as she will be fully immersed in a curriculum at the University of Kansas School of Medicine starting this fall. On track to receive her M.D. in 2022, Detweiler plans to specialize in family practice medicine with a long-term goal “to live and practice as a medical missionary somewhere in Latin America, ideally focusing on women’s health and pediatrics.”
As she prepares for a life of medical practice in Latin America, Detweiler knows that she developed a strong foundation during her time at Baker.
“I think the biggest advantage I have as a Baker premed student is my access to professors who deeply care about my academic and personal success,” Detweiler said. “My professors—and professors I’ve never even taken classes with—are so invested in me, and knowing that I have a strong support system backing me up is a huge comfort.”
That support system and the personal connections that come with it, she said, are apparent at every level of Baker.
“My professors, President [Lynne] Murray, Dean [Cassy] Bailey, Tom [Kennedy] from landscaping, the registrars, and Bruce [Skoog] from the bookstore all know me by name and invest in my life daily,” Detweiler said.
While she will undoubtedly encounter each of those familiar faces at Commencement, Detweiler cannot help but think back to the twist of fate that brought her to Baker.
“One of Washington University’s mottos was, ‘To know each student by name and by story,’ and while I was there, I don’t necessarily know if it was accomplished,” she said. “That’s a hard balance to achieve at a big school, but at Baker, I truly do feel known, appreciated, and supported. I’m pretty happy I accidentally ended up here!”