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Karissa Arthur has to admit that being a doctor wasn’t a childhood dream. “I loved to draw and I was good at math, so my first thought was that I’d be an architect,” the Carbondale native said. She enrolled at Pennsylvania State University’s University Park campus, initially intending to pursue architecture. It didn’t take long, however, for her to find it wasn’t for her. “It was a lot more artsy and there was a lot less math than I anticipated,” she said.

Fortunately, as valedictorian of her Carbondale Area High School class, Karissa’s options were limitless and she began to explore them. “I was undecided for a while, but when I started taking bio and psychology courses, I fell in love with neuroscience.”

Karissa’s fascination with the brain turned to deep concern when her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “She is a big reason I decided to become a doctor and, specifically, a neurologist.”

When it came time to choose a medical school, Karissa once again had plenty of options, but chose Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine because, “I followed the news. I watched Geisinger Commonwealth being built from the ground up. It was so good for northeastern and central Pennsylvania and I loved its community focus. It just felt right.”

Karissa took a year off from her medical studies to work with world-renowned researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studying the genetic etiology of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She pursued and won the coveted NIH spot because she believes it will make her a better doctor. She explained, “Genetics and personalized medicine will be very important in the field of neurology.”

Karissa doesn’t hedge when it comes to stating her intent to return to northeastern Pennsylvania to practice medicine. It’s a double win for the region since she says her decision was made in full agreement with her high school sweetheart, fellow Geisinger Commonwealth student and future cardiologist, Robert DeGrazia.

“I am definitely coming back,” she said. “When I was growing up in Carbondale, all I could think about was getting out and seeing the world. Now my goal is to come back and make the community a place where kids like me want to stay.”
Karissa Arthur