CAPS Associate Marissa Talley on the path to a career in pediatric surgery

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photo courtesy of Marissa Talley

Marissa Talley (12) participates in the CAPS program to gain experience of the real world medical field.

Long ago, on one Halloween night, a tiny, towheaded, four year old set out on her quest for candy, very professionally dressed as a doctor. Although it may have been unknown to others, little Marissa Talley knew this was the start of her journey.

Talley is a CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) Medical Strand Associate with SSM Health. She has been very dedicated to the idea of working in the medical field for quite a while. Growing up, Talley has always known that she wanted to be a doctor. Her goal for a career in medicine has developed into a goal for a career as a pediatric surgeon.

 “I wouldn’t say what I wanted to do changed, I would just say that it developed to something more specific,” Talley explains. She realized her love of working with kids because of their “great energy and happy outlook on life.” 

Talley has always been committed to a career in healthcare because she loves to help people and wants everyone to be healthy enough to experience and enjoy life. As for science, her love for the subject stems from her pure curiosity of life. 

“I love science because it explains how the world works,” says Talley.

 From the alleles that make up hair color to the genes that can give one patient cancer and leave another perfectly healthy, she is fascinated by how tiny changes in DNA can make everyone so different. 

This appreciation and fascination for small details is a great part of what makes Talley who she is. Detail-oriented is an understatement when describing her. This high achieving OHS student’s room can be found neatly organized and with everything in its place. 

Talley explains, “I would say I am organized. I like things to be arranged very systematically and when I put something somewhere there is always a reason.” Talley’s characteristics shine through whatever she does. Each part of her personality helps her succeed.

I wouldn’t say what I wanted to do changed, I would just say that it developed to something more specific”

— Marissa Talley

One of the environments that Talley thrives in because of her determination and organization is competitive gymnastics. She has been competing at Barron Gymnastics since the first grade.

 “I had a difficult time when I injured my back spring of my sophomore year,” she said. “I couldn’t compete on the beam, but my coach decided last minute that she wanted me to. I had to compete after not having practiced my skills for three months.”

Throughout the years, gymnastics taught her how to persevere when things were not going her way. She has also worked with the younger athletes, which plays a role in her desire to help kids. Talley has pulled these skills she’s learned from the sport to her academic life to achieve her goals of all A’s throughout high school and being accepted into the CAPS program, which only accepts 50 students from 9 school districts across St. Louis. 

“CAPS interested me because I wanted to make sure that I could handle the career,” she explained. “I have it made out to be one thing in my head, so I wanted to make sure that being a surgeon is actually what I want for my future.” 

Although the course work for CAPS has been slightly edited to fit the virtual class method, it is still rigorous work. The students meet every day for two hours and go over real world application of health issues through case studies. They also make their own experimental designs and often virtually meet with professionals from the hospital. Normally the students would be shadowing doctors at the hospital, however, they have not yet had a chance to go back yet.

 “I can’t wait until we can get into the hospital to shadow, and see what new experiences and opportunities it brings!” says Talley.

The tiny, towheaded, four year old is grown up now and with the dedication she has to achieve her goals, someday, her lab coat won’t be a costume anymore.