In our ongoing effort to playfully challenge stereotypes by showcasing professional cheerleaders-turned-scientists, I’d like to introduce you to Ginger, a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader with a Masters Degree in Nursing.
SciCheer: Ginger, please tell us what turned you on to science.
Ginger: I entered Purdue University studying nursing because I wanted to work with–and help–people. After a year there, I decided  I wanted to go to medical school, so I moved back to Kansas City to go to KU for my pre-med requirements but decided to switch back to nursing.  I guess I just felt like the human aspect was sometimes missing from some of the doctor training programs.  I earned my Bachelor’s in Nursing and started working in an emergency room.  After a couple of years of this, I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s in Nursing.  I became a Nurse Practitioner so now I  diagnose, treat, prescribe, and do all sorts of procedures.  It is like the best of both worlds!  I love my job — I have autonomy to make decisions and treat patients, and I have the nursing background and caring touch that goes with it!
SciCheer: Do you find that your looks (or being a former cheerleader) helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences? (Were you taken seriously?)
Ginger: I actually never flaunted the fact that I was a cheerleader.  It was always my practice to let people get to know me for me, and then to let them find out about my cheerleading experience on their own.  I was very proud of my cheerleading days, but that was not something I felt right about telling people straight out.  Many people have stigmas or stereotypes about professional cheerleaders, and I wanted to prove that I was a ‘real’ person with intellect and compassion before they found out about what I did on the side.  That in itself created a level of credibility and trust and actually broke down some barriers that might have been present before.  When asked about my ‘looks’ — I never got caught up in this.  I don’t know if I was judged by my physical appearance or not — if I was, that is a detriment for the people who were doing the judging.  Beauty only lasts for a short time — life is not about what you look like on the outside.
SciCheer: Tell me a little about your favorite courses.
Ginger: I absolutely LOVED microbiology!  Playing with the microscopes and learning about organisms was amazing!  I also loved my criminal psychology and neuropsychology class.  There were intensely interesting.  Anatomy and physiology as well as pathophysiology, while difficult, were excellent classes, too.
SciCheer: Do you have any advice for middle or high school girls who might feel torn between following one dream (cheerleading or dancing) associated with beauty or following another (science) usually associated with, well, geeks? 🙂
Ginger: I would say first of all, you can do BOTH!!  I have done it and there is no reason why you cannot chase ALL of your dreams!  You only live once, so go out and try what you want to do!  Worst case scenario you fail but still have amazing experiences and life lessons to carry with you.   Like I said above, beauty isn’t everything; it is fleeting and we should not put our hopes and expectations into something that is so superficial.  Enjoy what you have, but ABSOLUTELY do NOT put value in things that are not of substance.  It is very easy to find an outwardly beautiful person who is ugly on the inside.  Be different!  Be a beautiful PERSON — someone who has strength of character, loves others well, lives for relationship, is fully present, and doesn’t put stock in how pretty she is.  THAT is a rare and truly breathtaking person.
SciCheer: Best cheerleading experience?
Ginger: Going on the USO tour with our team to Italy!  How awesome to go and entertain those who are fighting for our freedom!!  Those are memories I will never forget!  I also will never forget how it felt to come out and do the opening number where the players would run through us as we were lined up on the football field.  Arrowhead is so loud and full of energy — there is NOTHING like it!!
SciCheer: Best ER experience?
Ginger: One of the best ER experiences would have to be when a gal came in who had almost cut off her fingers with an electrical hedge trimmer.  I worked on her hand for a couple of hours, one stitch at a time, trying to put everything back together in working order.  As I worked on her, we talked about her life, her children, her husband, her travels, and I shared with her about myself.  I was so worried about her hand.  I went home that night with her on my mind, and she stayed in my thoughts for days after.  I was afraid the damage was too far down and that her fingers would either not heal, or get infected and she would lose the use of her hand.  Several weeks later, one of my nurses told me I had a visitor in the waiting room.  When I went out to see who it was, it was that patient and her husband.  She had tears in her eyes and a glove on her hand.  She took the glove off, and her hand was perfect!!  She could use all of her fingers, she had full sensation, and it looked great!  It was wonderful!  We hugged, she cried in joy, and we both laughed at how worried we were that her hand was too far damaged, and yet it healed wonderfully.  It was truly a memory I will never forget.
SciCheer: Anything else you’d like people to know?
Ginger: The saying is old but true — ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’.
SciCheer: What’s next?
Ginger: I have applied to go back to school for my doctorate!
Good luck, Ginger! Thanks for lending your voice to science and cheerleading.

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