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Telesis grad headed to med school, plans to return to Havasu as doctor

November 20, 2018

Trying to attract young professionals to Lake Havasu City is an ongoing effort. In one particular case, city leaders needn’t look any further than their own backyard.

Yamini Koyye, 22, was recently accepted to medical school and intends to become a doctor of osteopathy. After that, her main objective is to return to Havasu and practice medicine here.

“I would love to come back to Havasu when I’m done,” she said. “Havasu gave me confidence and support. I’d like to pay back the community.”

Her path to Havasu began in her hometown of Hyderabad, India. The seventh-grader moved to Arizona in 2007 and enrolled at Telesis Preparatory Academy. By the time she was a senior, Koyye had earned the title of valedictorian of the school’s Class of 2013. Her next move was attending Grand Canyon University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in science in 2016.

She’s spent the last few months preparing for her biggest step yet – attending the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

“I’ve been doing research for one of my professors, studying for my MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) and shadowing Kristy Whelan,” Koyye said. Whelan is a doctor of osteopathy medicine at Cornerstone Family Health Care in Havasu.

Koyye has also been volunteering at Lake View Terrace, a care facility in Havasu that specializes in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Her father, Padmaja Chava, is a caregiver there. He introduced his daughter to volunteer service at Lake View when Koyye was a young teen.

It was at Lake View that she had her “aha” moment.

“I’d been doing a lot of volunteering. I got to know the residents and had relationships with them,” she said, likening the depth of those friendships as familial. “It was as if I had an awakening. I thought that if I became a doctor, maybe there was something I could do to alleviate their pain. I’ve always been interested in science, so it was an emotional and scientific decision to become a doctor. The thing that pushed me to medicine is the care I can give patients.”

Koyye estimates she’ll be 35 years old by the time she is done with her medical training. She’s ready for the challenge.

“I took a lot of honors program courses at Grand Canyon. They were so tough. I think my educational experience at Telesis prepared me for my undergrad work. It laid a good foundation,” she said, crediting her biology teacher Maria Sideris and English teacher Tom Dornton with helping propel her forward.

Telesis Superintendent Sandy Breece appreciates Koyye’s trajectory.

“Yamini was very quiet in the beginning,” she said of the young Koyye she remembers. “But she wanted to be a good student. She worked hard,” Breece said. “Yamini has been a wonderful work in progress to watch.”

Koyye’s mother, Chandra, got the ball rolling for the family. She moved to Havasu in 2004 from India, landing a job at Telesis through a three-year teacher exchange program. She was the school’s science and physics teacher.

In 2005, Chandra’s husband moved to Havasu. Deciding it was suitable place to raise their family, Koyye and her younger sister moved to Havasu soon after. Chandra is now the instructional analysis director at Telesis, charting each student’s achievement in learning skills. While she is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, she is even more proud of her eldest child’s inherent desire to succeed.

“She has a lot of persistence and determination,” Chandra said. “I thought maybe she would want to be a PA (physician’s assistant). But no, she wanted to be a doctor. Yamini did her research. We said, ‘Well, if this is really what you want to do, we support you.’ The path is so difficult. We prayed about it. It feels like the whole family is going to medical school!”

Koyye said the Arkansas school is the right choice for her. The signs are there, she half-joked.

“When I went there for my interview, there was a street next to the school named ‘Phoenix Avenue.’ That was one sign,” Koyye said. “Another sign was that the town felt like home to me, like Havasu. It’s smaller. The school treats students well and there’s a lot of community support. I was in a store and I had my ARCON wristband on. (A stranger) said, ‘Oh, are you here for your interview (to med school)? Don’t worry – you’re going to do great.’ Wasn’t that nice?”

Koyye reports for the fall semester in August 2019 in Arkansas. That’s where the next chapter of her bright future will be written.

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