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Overcoming Adversity and A Desire to Help Others

Facing challenges brings out the best in people, highlighting their resilience and determination. Winston Churchill's timeless advice, "If you are going through hell, keep going," rings true for Gavin Kuykendal, a Health Science Technology student. 

"Simply put, I was born with half a heart. I have a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), so I have only two chambers instead of the typical four,” he explained. “I've gone to OU Children's Hospital for all my life. I’ve had five open heart surgeries, and a year and a half ago I had a heart transplant.”

Now he is a member of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Teen Advisory Council. As a member of the team, he will help shape the patient experience.

“I want to give back to the hospital that has saved my life and figure out what we can do to the hospital to make it better, as well as share our experiences,” he said with a smile.

His doctors nominated him for the program, but beyond giving back to the hospital, Kuykendal also has his sights set on a career in medicine.

“I've been around all the health stuff my whole life and I'm just like, why not give back to what has helped me,” he said. “I want to help kids with similar conditions to mine. I think that would be my ultimate goal, to become a cardiologist,” he said.

His journey into medicine was not a predetermined path. A junior at Metro Christian Academy, he was torn between two passions, airplanes, and cardiology.

“I love airplanes and the science behind flight, so being at Riverside Campus, I get the best of both worlds. Of course, I am in the health careers, but we have all the aviation programs, so I can still see all the planes," he said.

He is currently taking the Health Science Technology (HST) program. The one-year exploratory program serves as a foundational stepping stone to many medical careers. HST offers students courses in medical terminology, anatomy and much more.

As for his favorite part of the body, “Right now, I would say the brain! It's been cool learning how really important the brain is, it's a big deal,” he said. “But of course, that will change when we get to the heart.”

While he plans on enrolling in Medical Assisting next school year at the Health Science Center, he says everyone should take advantage of any opportunity.

“It's a great experience at Tulsa Tech,” Kuykendal said. “There's so many programs here you can do from medical all the way to aviation. There's something for everyone.”

With more than 80 career programs, Tulsa Tech can help you make your own path to the career of your dreams, no matter the obstacles.