An Alum Speaks for the Speechless

The dead are notoriously silent.

“When you talk to patients in the medical field, they can advocate for themselves—dead people can’t,” says Kaylee Simon ’17. “You’re the one trying to figure out what happened to them; you’re advocating for that person.”

One way to do that is through toxicology, the science of studying poison. For Simon, who’s now a junior majoring in medical toxicology at Penn State, however, it’s much more than science. It’s a mystery to solve.

Simon discussed her path from Sidwell Friends to her current studies during a visit to Laura Barrosse-Antle’s forensics class, which is a new Upper School offering this year. Barrosse-Antle, who was Simon’s chemistry teacher during her time at the School, reached out to Simon while developing the class to get her input and then asked her to come speak to the dozen or so students who ultimately enrolled. During her talk, Simon explained her field, talked about her studies, and took questions from the students about everything from her class load (it’s daunting) to whether she has seen the effects of the country’s opioid crisis.

Simon, who after beginning in forensics shifted to medical toxicology, finds the discipline’s combination of scientific inquiry and critical thinking to be the most compelling part of her work.

“When you’re young, you do puzzles and Legos; you have to learn to piece something together,” she says. “When you get into this field, it’s that but on a larger scale.”

Simon credits her education at Sidwell Friends, particularly her math and science courses, for giving her the skills necessary to be successful in medical toxicology.

“The teachers really helped me have the skills to be good in the field,” she says. “The way those classes were run, it was like you got half the problem. They gave you some ways to do it, but then it was on you. I don’t think I would have been taught that way in another school.”

Simon is hoping to go on to medical school after graduation and perhaps pursue a career with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the FDA—places where she can always speak for those who are silent.

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