Alumna Bailey Johnson’s CSU psychology degree opens up doors into medical school

Not all first-year psychology students see their degree taking them into the operating room. But for one Colorado State University College of Natural Sciences alumna, that is the path that blended her interests – and sparked new passions. Bailey Johnson (psychology ’10), has lined up the pieces of her studies and experiences and landed an orthopedic surgery residency at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Bailey Johnson
Bailey Johnson (Psychology ’10)

Growing up in Fort Collins, Johnson was fascinated by bones. At age 11 she observed her first hip replacement on a dog. She would then go on to have her own experiences with bone injuries and healing, with multiple fractures from playing sports. Johnson was involved in rugby, and this athletic pursuit is what ended up sparking her curiosity for medicine. She received ACL surgery and was able to experience the benefits first-hand. This formed her early interest in orthopedics.

Finding her niche

Starting her undergraduate career at CSU with an interest in becoming a doctor or psychiatrist, Johnson entered into the psychology program. Since psychology is a natural science, it made it an easy choice for her. Johnson said, “Many of my premed credits were required portions of my degree and I wanted my psychology training to have an emphasis in research and neurobiology both of which were components of the CSU program.”

During her sophomore, junior, and senior years, Johnson worked as a research assistant in the late David McCabe’s Cognitive Aging and Memory Lab in the psychology department. She also worked off campus at an internship at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland and was assigned to the neuropsychology department. Johnson received her B.S. in psychology from CSU in 2010.

After graduation, Johnson took a three-year break and tried out various job positions, including teaching English to middle school and high school students in Spain. Eventually, she decided to apply for medical school.

Med school and beyond

Johnson began attending University of Colorado School of Medicine for orthopedic surgery in 2013. During this transition, she had to reset her focus from psychology and apply it to orthopedics. She said, “Orthopedics had a new tool that was developed and refined during my study of psychology; the ability to rapidly connect and attend to the emotional needs of patients.”

Johnson served as an executive member of the Orthopedic Surgery Interest Group from her first year to the present. During her four years in and out of surgeries, she has been able to discern her passion for orthopedics. She said, “I was struck with the realization that there are few things more emotionally rewarding for a patient or physician than restoring the independence and happiness that comes with physical normalcy: the ability to walk, feed oneself, to hold a grandchild.”

In July, Johnson heads to her residency at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine for orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation. She said, “I’m so glad I attended CSU, and my training there really prepared me for medical school!”