Grad Stories 2019: Keegan Steele


There is no hesitation in Keegan Steele's voice when he talks about his future. He knows he is standing on a strong foundation from his St. Ambrose University education.

He is confident, articulate and excited, so excited, to start medical school in the fall at Indiana University, which also accepted him into its Rural Medicine Program.

Yes, Keegan faces four more years of deep education followed by three to six years in residency, depending on the specialty he chooses.

He feels no intimidation about what lies ahead. Keegan knows he is well prepared.

"Of that, I have no fear," he said.

Keegan will graduate May 11 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, with a biomedical science concentration, during the 2019 St. Ambrose University Spring Commencement Ceremony. He is graduating with honors.

Keegan did not consider the field of medicine until his family doctor, Denise Pine-Mattas, MD, suggested it during his senior year of high school. He was planning to major in accounting.

"I job shadowed an anesthesiologist and just fell in love with it. I knew, from then on, medicine was going to be my path," he said. "Dr. Pine-Mattas has been a driving force and my mentor during this entire process. Without her help and guidance, I do not know I would be where I am at today. I definitely would not have been introduced to medicine."

His first major-specific class was Biology 109 with Professor William Hixson, PhD. "It is notoriously the hardest class at SAU for bio majors, and it was a real wakeup call in the beginning. It was my first hump and I got my first ‘B' ever in that class. It was not a good start so it made me question, am I sure this what I want to do, and can I do this?" he said.

Keegan realized he could, and wanted, to do it.

"That class helped shape my success as I moved through the program," he said. "And, if I was struggling or felt overwhelmed. I would go to the faculty and they would say, ‘How can we help you succeed in this?' I learned how to ask for help here at SAU. It was encouraged."

Keegan Steele

Class of 2019

In many ways, Keegan's Ambrosian experience shifted his view of the world, something others have recognized as well.

Keegan is from Sullivan, Indiana. When Coach Ray Shovlain '79, '82 MBA started recruiting him to play basketball for the Fighting Bees, he came for a tour. "I fell in love with the campus. I also learned about the cadaver dissection lab, and the other schools I was considering did not offer that opportunity," he said.

At SAU, Keegan played basketball his first year, joined DoctorsToBee, participated in three Dance Marathons, and through the Honors Program he volunteered at The Project of the Quad Cities, which serves people with HIV and AIDS, and provides community outreach and education.

Keegan also joined the Model United Nations Society his sophomore year. He served on the leadership team as a junior and this year was president. "It is not something I ever pictured myself doing. I was never a big politics guy in high school, but then I took a class with Associate Professor Duk Kim, PhD, and I fell in love with the whole process. It made me step out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot about politics and how the world works," he said.

What he learned in Model UN ties well to his future profession.

"The world of medicine is now embracing this big theme of inclusion, diversity, and accepting, treating and relating to people who are much different than you. Through Model UN I learned about so many cultures that are very, very, different from my small rural town in Indiana, and so I feel I will be able to relate to more people and have conversations as well," he said.

In many ways, Keegan's Ambrosian experience shifted his view of the world, something others have recognized as well. "When I went home for Easter, a lot of my family members said they could see a difference in how I approach things," he said.

Shortly after commencement, Keegan and a friend will explore Europe, backpacking through 13 cities and 11 countries in 38 days.

"After that, I am extremely excited to start medical school, to start something that I am going to be doing for the rest of my life," he said.

Keegan has not chosen a specialty but is interested in anesthesiology and emergency medicine. On top of academics, activities, medical school applications and interviews, he worked part-time as an ER medical scribe for the three UnityPoint-Trinity hospitals in the Quad Cities.

"I dropped a couple of balls juggling everything a couple of times for sure, but I have a really supportive family that has helped me. Without my mom and dad, there is no way I could have done any of this. On my worse days, they were the people I called to say I was struggling and they always gave the best advice. Sometimes it was harsh to hear, but I definitely needed to hear it," he said.

Indiana University is located much closer to his parents. Keegan will be about 45 minutes away. "After being five hours away from home for four years, it is kind of nice to go back home," he said.

Yet, as Keegan charges into his future, there are many things he will miss about SAU.

"I made a lot of amazing relationships with friends and faculty," he said. "That will be a huge thing I will miss, as well as the atmosphere of St. Ambrose. I talk to friends from Indiana, and they do not experience it at the universities they attend. SAU has this sense of home to it. I feel I will always want to come back here."

"SAU has this sense of home to it. I feel I will always want to come back here."

Keegan Steele '19


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