SAAC in ACCtion: Living 'Ever to Excel'

March 25, 2010

Sarah CarlsonFor Sarah Carlson, living out Boston College’s motto “Ever to Excel” meant excelling in all facets of life.

As an ice hockey player at BC, Carlson was twice-named captain of the team and tallied 23 career points as a defenseman, never missing a single game in four years with the Eagles. She was named to the All-Hockey East First Team during her senior season and was a three-time member of the Hockey East All-Academic Team.

Even more impressive than her on-ice accolades were Carlson’s off-the-ice pursuits, in which she excelled. She was named the 2005 Hockey Humanitarian, an award honoring “college hockey’s finest citizen,” and received the 2005 Coca-Cola Community All-American Award for being a student-athlete who made a difference in her community. These awards show that Carlson’s time at the Heights constantly was spent giving back. She helped at dance marathons for cancer research, led hockey tournaments for sick children, and frequently assisted at Boston-area soup kitchens, all while maintaining a 3.7 GPA in the Connell School of Nursing. Carlson also actively participated in her church by volunteering at an orphanage in Ecuador, a dental clinic in the Dominican Republic, and helping to build a church in Mexico.

As the oldest of eight children, Carlson has always understood the importance of giving back and helping others. Following graduation, she put her nursing degree to good use, spending three years working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Emergency Room. When asked to explain her passion, Carlson said, “I love to care for the hurting and I love nursing. I really love my job because I know that I have the option to make a difference in people and really connect with them.” During her three years there, Carlson worked with gunshot victims, patients who suffered heart attacks and strokes, and others in need of acute medical care. She credits her time as a student-athlete for helping her to develop the proper demeanor to take charge in these chaotic situations.

In addition to her work at Brigham and Women’s hospital, Carlson continued to take her talents to other countries. Feeling a higher calling to assist those who are less fortunate, Carlson spent nine months in Ganta, Liberia, and 10 days in Lircay, Peru, in 2008 and 2009. In Liberia, she spent time volunteering with Equip Liberia as the nursing supervisor in rural Nimba County, monitoring and supervising 10 rural clinics and leading clinic workshops. During her 10 days in Peru, she volunteered at a dental clinic in the Andes Mountains and helped provide free dental care to those in need.

Carlson called these experiences “life changing” and feels that her faith in God has led her to this path. “I have a love for my Lord and my faith,” Carlson explained, “and that really drives me to love people and to help others. My heart is truly softened by those who are less fortunate, so to invest in and to make a difference in their culture was truly special to me.”

Sarah CarlsonAlthough much of Carlson’s success is fueled by her passion for helping others, she says she would not be where she is today if not for the support team that Boston College has in place. The combination of being a student and athlete is difficult for many, but being a nursing student-athlete provides further challenges, including scheduling a practicum that require students to spend full shifts in a clinical setting throughout the completion of coursework.

Carlson notes that professors and coaches helped her pursue her passions. “Everyone saw that I had a desire to do it and to make each step work,” she says. “That was really helpful in pursuing a career in medicine and public health.” Further, she says that support was not just for her academic pursuit, but was also spiritual support. That help allowed her to develop lifelong relationships that she continues to embrace no matter where her career takes her.

If her past is any indication of her future, Sarah Carson will continue to excel no matter what she does.