While Marlena Long grew up caring for livestock, her lifelong plan has been curing patients
Hometown: Paris, Missouri
High School: Paris High School
Degree program: Six-year B.A./M.D.
“My grandfather died when I was 7 years old. We would travel to the cancer center in Columbia, Missouri, and I would sit with my grandpa while he received chemotherapy treatments,” Long says. “I noticed how the doctors and nurses made my grandpa feel better, and I knew that I wanted to do that someday. Ever since then, I have dreamed of being a doctor.”
Long shadowed with a cardiologist while she was in high school. Just as the medical professionals who treated her grandfather influenced her, this experience further confirmed her interest in becoming a doctor.
“I have learned so much about myself in just the first month at UMKC. Now I know I have a very bright future in front of me if I continue to work hard.” Marlena Long
Long completed her associate’s degree at Moberly Area Community College before coming to UMKC. She says the classroom experience gave her an idea of what to expect, but getting acclimated to college life has been different.
“The courses have been intense,” Long says. “I have been able to learn so much in my short time here due to my professors working so hard to make sure I understand what I need to for my future. But there are advantages, too. Not taking the MCAT decreased the time I need to receive my degree, and I’m able to start clinic work my first year.”
While Long is taking her studies seriously, she is also making the time to make connections.
“I didn’t know my roommate before school started, but we are close friends now. All my friends have different backgrounds, but I’m the only farm kid,” says Long, who grew up raising pigs and cattle on her family farm through 4-H and the National FFA Organization. “They are really curious about it. I’m planning a trip home with them this winter so that they can see the piglets that I’ll be showing next summer.”
While Long grew up exposed to the practice of animal medicine, she was never interested in being a veterinarian.
“The biggest advantage is understanding the circle of life.”
“That seems like my parents’ life,” she says. “My mother works at BASF (a company that develops chemical products for agriculture with a focus on sustainability). She told me she may be able to help me get a job in that business. But I want to be a doctor.”
Regardless of her career choice, Long does value her experience growing up on a farm.
“There’s so much responsibility. When it’s snowing outside on Christmas morning, you still have to go outside and heat up the water for the animals to drink,” she says. “But the biggest advantage is understanding the circle of life. I’ve seen animals be born, do all the things they are supposed to do and then pass away. I learned that so early.”
Long showed her pigs at the American Royal this fall. She’s confident and comfortable moving through the rows and pens of the livestock. While she is very independent, she still visits home a lot and has one foot firmly on her home turf.
“I’m going to be a doctor, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop showing pigs.” Long smiles and nods slowly. “I mean, my kids will show pigs.”