From G.I.R.L. to M.D.
Fifteen years ago, Dr. Kristen Navarette stood before her Girl Scout troop, friends, and family and received the highest honors available to Girl Scouts, the Gold Award. Since then, she’s launched a successful career as a pediatrician with a deep passion for literacy initiatives at Albany Medical Center. Today, she’s raising her own Girl Scouts and volunteers as her daughter’s troop leader with Troop 1143 in East Greenbush, NY.
The old adage, “it takes a village” rings true for Navarette. “Great things are never accomplished alone,” she says. “Big problems are never solved by a single person; it always requires working with a team. Working together is something I’ve had to do in every step of my journey, and something I first learned as a Girl Scout.”
To accomplish her Gold Award, Kristen had to rely on school clubs, youth ministry members, and yes, even her mom. Now, as a pediatrician, she isn’t able to successfully care for patients without a team of staff and nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.
“I am constantly reminded just how many people it takes to carry out such a large program,” she says. “While your projects may seem small, you do exactly what all those professionals in government, medicine, and business have to do: work as a team.”
Earning a Gold Award is no small feat. In fact, only about six percent of eligible girls earn it. The reality is that high school girls are faced with serious choices to make, careers to consider, futures to ponder. At the same time they are faced with these decisions, girls are navigating a complicated social and academic path.
“I was a senior in high school, taking college level courses, applying to really challenging combined college-medical programs, and here was my Gold Award Project sitting in front of me, hundreds of donations piled around, and I had no idea how we would get all this done,” reflects Kristen. “In fact, I told my mom I was ready to give all of it up: college, my Gold Award, everything.”
But she didn’t. “I took a deep breath, found a new way to solve the problem, and just kept going.” She kept going all the way to Thailand, where in 2005 she helped rebuild homes after the Tsunami destroyed villages. It’s where she discovered her passion for children’s health and set the course for her professional career.
When Kristen was a child, she was terrified of fire. Her Gold Award project was the first time she faced her fear and turned into something she was passionate about. Her project involved making care packages for displaced families. She chose it because a close family friend had their home destroyed by a fire.
That was when I first learned about how important that passion was,” she says. “When I had those hard times, I reminded myself why I was doing this, and that I didn’t want someone like my family friend to have that experience ever again.”
She was working in Uganda when she had to tap into her passion once again. While creating a children’s health program, the project lost a member and was in jeopardy of failing. “I was passionate to find a way to make it work. I didn’t want any more little girls to die, like the one who had inspired our project in the first place, after her mother didn’t understand the medicine she gave was dangerous for children. The passion behind your project is the most critical foundation for your journeys in life.”
To this day, Kristen draws on the courage and confidence she learned as a Girl Scout to overcome personal and professional challenges. She encourages girls to do the same whether earning a Gold Award, going to college, starting a job or a new business, becoming an artist or an innovator or running for office.