Doctor and Patient
From a young age, Dawn was passionate about health and longevity. At six years old, she proclaimed she wanted to be a doctor, and to live to 100 like the centenarians she saw on The Today Show. Her passion translated into a calling to empower others in their wellbeing journeys, leading Dawn to medical school.
In 2000, three months after starting medical school at Midwestern University, Dawn was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. She continued her education while enduring five months of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and radiation therapy.
After Dawn’s daughter was born in 2003, she began experiencing shortness of breath, weakness and fainting, and was diagnosed with heart disease. She received a biventricular device (BiVAD)* in 2007 to help her heart function. This enabled Dawn to grow strong enough to complete her residency and become a physician at Mayo Clinic Hospital. In the following years, Dawn’s heart health continued to decline, and she was added to the national transplant waiting list for a heart transplant in 2019.
Dawn (right), with her daughter, Sophia
New Heart and Fresh Start
In January 2021, Dawn was admitted to the hospital and after ten days received the call: a matching donor heart was available! Dawn received her new heart and a fresh start.
“When I woke up from transplant,” Dawn says, “it was the first time in 18 years my body felt warm. I had complete clarity of thought and I remember feeling the powerful, strong beat of my new heart. I was alive!” With her new heart, Dawn was able to continue her lifelong passion and return to face-to-face patient care within eight weeks.
Dawn’s proudest accomplishment is becoming the first person in the world to run a full marathon within one year of transplant. Since then, she continues to run marathons to honor her donor and support her patients. She has run a total of seven marathon distance runs. All of this, she recognizes, is possible because of her heart transplant. “There is no greater gift than the gift of organ donation,” Dawn says. “Organ donation has afforded me the opportunity to once again care for my patients and help them achieve optimal wellness. It is truly the ultimate gift of life.” Dawn encourages others to take the step of registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor and sharing this decision with family so others will receive a second chance at life through the selfless gift of donation.
*an implantable pump designed to help your heart function better when both the right and left pumping chambers of your heart are failing. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia, accessed March 31, 2023.