After her mother was involved in a cycling accident, Heidi Roche transferred to Colorado State from the University of Colorado in Boulder to be closer to home to help care for her and her two younger siblings.
Her mom, a single mother, suffered a severe spinal cord injury in June 2013, and Heidi stepped up as the primary caregiver for her family. Despite demanding challenges, during her undergraduate career in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Roche has made the dean’s list, worked as a certified nurse’s assistant, and continued to excel in her studies. She is receiving a bachelor of science degree in microbiology and will be going to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for medical school in the fall.
Transferring to a new school would be an adjustment for any student — on top of that, Roche had to adjust to a new family structure.
“Things were so crazy at the time of my transfer I remember simply being grateful I was in classes,” she said. “I found a lot of support from faculty. One of my professors brought us dinner once a week.”
That was Gerald Callahan, a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, who taught Roche in his Animal and Human Disease course.
“From the beginning, it was clear to me that Heidi was exceptional,” Callahan said.
Callahan says the first time he brought a meal to their home, it looked like a “sticky-note tornado had struck.” The little yellow pieces of paper were stuck in the pantry and on the dishwasher, countertops and doorframes. When he looked closer, he realized that they were questions or facts that might appear on the medical school entry exam.
“What Heidi has accomplished is remarkable,” Callahan said. “It is my privilege to have known and worked with her.”
Faculty member Judy Heiderscheidt and Roche crossed paths in an epidemiology course. Roche considers Heiderscheidt not only a faculty mentor but a good friend, and Heiderscheidt said the feeling is mutual.
“We still meet for coffee on a frequent basis,” Roche said. “She was my first friend on campus.”
Heiderscheidt tried to support Roche any way she could and wanted to be sure that Roche was taking care of herself after her mother’s accident.
“[Taking care of her mom] was never a hindrance to Heidi,” Heiderscheidt said. “It was always just something she stepped up to do.”
Roche, a Fort Collins native, has wanted to be a doctor since she was 12 years old. CSU was not in her original college plans, but it has opened up opportunities.
“I clung tight to my dreams and couldn’t not push myself, not let go,” she said. “CSU has given me the foundation I need.”
Roche has worked hard to make her mom as independent as possible and continued to support her younger siblings — from giving them rides to soccer practice to helping them with college applications. Her brother is attending the Air Force Academy and Roche’s younger sister will soon get her driver’s license.
“Heidi’s a genuinely wonderful person,” Heiderscheidt said. “I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to get to know her.”
Roche plans to travel around Europe this summer before medical school starts in the fall.