With her bachelor’s in exercise science, KU grad wants to help others feel their best
Sanam Benzanson is not your traditional medical-school-bound college graduate. The 40-year-old mother of three went from owning and operating her own real estate business to going back to school to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. She graduates this May with a Bachelor of Exercise Science degree and will begin medical school in the fall.
For Benzanson, participating in the honors program was one of the most notable parts of her time at KU. “This program highlights the need for interdisciplinary work between degree programs,” said Benzanson. “The honors seminar brought together students from different programs and forced us to open our minds, to listen, to learn how to communicate.”
Striking the right balance between her drive to achieve her goals and maintaining her health and relationships was an important process for Benzanson. She discusses this concept in her TEDx KU Edwards Campus talk, citing the value of a reasonable work ethic in order to avoid burnout.
Though she has years of school and training ahead, Benzanson is already dreaming of opening her own practice one day. Read more about her journey and career goals.
Q: What is a typical day in your life like?
A: A typical day begins with coffee and chatting about the to-do list with my hubby, Cody. Planning meals, cooking, laundry, errands and the typical duties of running a household. Then homework, projects, watching modules and reading before my evening classes. I love to cook dinner before heading to lab, so that we can sit and eat as a family. Then off to class to learn. I come home and unwind, usually with a smoothie and some type of cooking competition or DIY show. On the days I don’t have classes, I am working on finding or finishing an investment property or playing with my nieces and nephew.
Q: What makes you the happiest?
A: Biology is one of my favorite subjects to learn about. It is so exciting to understand how our bodies and minds work and even the microscopic communities living amidst us and on us. The projects that force me to dig deeper and look beyond the surface, giving definitions and perspectives to the individuality of humans, are not only fascinating but inspiring.
Q: What motivates you?
A: One of the things that motivates me the most is knowing that my degree will allow me to serve people on their journeys toward health and longevity. When something doesn’t feel good, it slows our ability to do our jobs, raise our families and serve our community. I know that I can help others feel their best so they then can give their best. I cannot wait to become a doctor and listen to my patients, learn from their unique situations and use my education and knowledge to put the pieces together and solve their health puzzles.
Q: Why did you choose KU and the Edwards Campus?
A: I went to all the local universities and spoke to their advisors about the pre-med or human sciences degrees. Hands down, KUEC’s advisors were not only the most knowledgeable about the degrees themselves, but even my future plans with medical school, volunteer/shadow opportunities and financial aid. KUEC felt like a family community where you could knock on a door and get a quick answer. I also loved the idea of learning and serving in my own community. It felt like building a solid foundation for my future practice.
Q: How did KUEC meet your personal and/or academic needs?
A: KUEC has proved to be a place where excellence meets curiosity. The professors are highly proficient and organized in their content, and they allow students to dive deeper into topics in discussion and explore further autonomously. This environment breeds innovation and a higher standard for accomplishment because it gives me the opportunity to explore the specific data and research I find most interesting. When professors allow this type of humility into their classrooms, it brings a sense of communal ingenuity that makes students want to perform well, not just for the grade, but out of respect for their professors.
Q: How has your KU degree prepared you for the future?
A: One of the greatest things about KUEC is the honors program. This program highlights the need for interdisciplinary work between degree programs. When you are in a specific college like the sciences, it gets very secluded to “sciencey” topics and classmates. The honors seminar brought together students from different programs and forced us to open our minds, to listen, to learn how to communicate what we were learning and how we could benefit one another.
It was like a “brain break” in the sense that I got to hear from people who I possibly would never meet. This shows the importance of working with other area experts to meet new people, to network and to understand their importance and ultimately how we can help one another along the way.
Q: What was the most difficult part of earning your college degree and how did you overcome it?
A: One of the most difficult parts is finding balance between work, family and school. When I finally decided to come back to academia, I was excited and ambitious. I started off fast, then slowed down and learned to enjoy each class. Even in the ones I didn’t think I would like, I tried to find some tidbit that I could chew on and learn from. It’s hard to slow down when you are so excited, but I was able to still cook dinner and go to classes because I took my time.
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment?
A: My proudest personal accomplishments are my three boys. My proudest academic accomplishments have been: 1. Being able to graduate with Honors from KU. 2. Getting accepted into medical school. 3. Getting an A in my biochemistry class with one of my favorite professors. It was a tough class!
Q: What is your favorite memory of your time at KUEC?
A: One of my favorite memories was with the Student Advisory Council functions we put on right around Thanksgiving and finals week. We made homemade Belgian waffles and got chicken strips from Cane’s and served free meals to the students in return for them either putting together a coloring pack for kids at Children’s Mercy or writing a note of gratitude to one of their professors, which we later delivered. The event was humbly rewarding because so many students during finals week are stressed and ready for a break, so their smiles of genuine thanks and that small pause for recharge and yummy free food was priceless.
Q: What are your long-term career goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
A: After graduating this May from KU, I will be attending medical school in the fall. I want to have a small practice where I can get to know my patients, serve their family and friends, and maybe one day come back to KU as a part-time professor to give back to the next generation of learners.
Q: What advice would you give others who are thinking of earning a degree, whether a first-time bachelor’s, a second bachelor’s or a master’s?
A: Time is going to pass regardless of what we choose to do. So if you have been thinking about going back to school, worrying about how long it might take, if it’s too late or if you can afford it, I encourage you to just take the first step and meet with the advisors at KUEC. The years will pass just the same whether you earn your degree or not. So why not?!
There are financial aid and scholarship opportunities and there are people who will have your back and help you find the right avenue to reach your dream. KUEC has flexible options for those of us that have tight schedules and fixed budgets, but who want to make ourselves and our communities richer, more colorful and more intelligent.
I am so glad that I chose to go back. It’s that kind of pure joy because I went for it, and now I’m achieving it, and so can you! So turn your music up on your way to KUEC and get ready to enjoy the journey!
Learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at KU Edwards Campus.