Senior hopes to study brain to help families

Merridee Lefner hopes to one day write a new future for patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The senior at Harlingen High School South wants to be a neurologist, she said. Her inspiration to study the brain comes from her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time, affecting the patient’s memory, thinking and behavior.

“(My grandmother) has a lot of trouble trying to remember things,” Lefner said. “She can’t remember what she had for breakfast. I’m just glad right now that she still remembers me.”

Lefner and her family visit her grandmother in Round Rock often, she said. She’s really close to her, and hopes to help other families with members suffering from the disease.

“I’ve been interested in the medical field my whole life,” she said. “The brain is so unknown and interesting, so I decided it would be great to study.”

Lefner plans on attending the University of Texas at San Antonio next year to study pre-biology, she said. Because she stayed active throughout high school, Lefner expects the transition to college to be smoother because of some of those experiences.

One of the activities Lefner participates in is co-op, which is a program that places high school seniors in part time-jobs so they can obtain professional skills and work experience.

She currently works in the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District’s Staff Development office, helping to manage training schedules for teachers and district professionals.

“I have been able to develop hard work and perseverance skills that have helped me in school,” Lefner said of her experience in co-op.

After competing in the University Interscholastic League (UIL) academic competitions for writing, Lefner should be ready for some of the challenges of college life. She was recruited for the ready writing competitions by HHSS English teacher Deborah Vaughn, she said.

“I like the writing competition because it’s more subjective,” she said. “You get the chance to be creative, which makes it fun.”

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