The late 1980s television series “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” dealt with the daily trials of a medical prodigy, a teenager who was the country’s youngest surgeon.
While the story may be farfetched for some, not so for Kylie Munson, a 13-year-old who is about to receive her diploma from high school and an Associate degree from Los Angeles Mission College, and who is applying next year to medical school.
“I started taking college courses for extra credit,” the Santa Clarita resident explains.
That was in Summer, 2017. Since then, she’s managed a full schedule of college courses as well as her independent studies from Sage Oak High School.
Kylie has also been selected to represent California at the Congress of Future Medical Leaders conference in Lowell, Mass., which will take place at Harvard University next summer and serves as an opportunity to listen to doctors from different specialties talk about their professions.
“I was nominated by a couple of professors and students,” explains Kylie, who was the only one receiving a scholarship to attend the conference.
The honors-only program convenes the top high school students from across the United States who want to become doctors and medical researchers. For three days she will hear from Nobel Laureates, National Medal of Science winners, and deans from the top medical schools in the country.
“This is a crucial time in America when we need more doctors and medical scientists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially,” said Richard Rossi, executive director for the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, which hosts the annual Congress.
“Focused, bright and determined students like Kylie are our future,” he said.
Her nomination letter was signed by Mario Capecchi, Ph.D, and winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology. Kylie was nominated because of her academic achievement, leadership potential, and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.
Besides all these accolades and achievements, she also tutors in her spare time and volunteers with National Honor Society.
And, if that wasn’t enough, there were long, daily practices for her elite cheerleading squad, SMOED (Small Coed). She’s a flyer for the team from the prestigious California All-Stars Cheer Squad, which just won a world championship this past April.
Yes, she’s an overachiever. But for her, all of this is just the life of a regular teenager.
Except that she isn’t.
School Was “Too Easy”
Kylie was in private school until the fourth grade, “but I wasn’t being challenged too much. It was too easy,” she said.
In fifth grade she switched to independent studies and started testing a couple of grades above her grade level. That’s when she moved on to Sage Oak High School, a charter school, to begin attending high school.
She has completed most of her eighth through 12th grade courses and is scheduled to graduate next June. At the
same time, she will be getting an Associate degree from LA Mission College.
All of this at an age when she should be starting ninth grade.
“In 2017 I met with LA Mission and took the tests to see if I could start taking classes,” she said.
“I did an interview, met with the dean of LA Mission who was in charge of high school students, and took an assessment test to see where they would place me.”
She then began taking courses.
“My classes aren’t that hard,” she said of her college courses.
She admits she’s very competitive, both in cheer and her studies, is used to “working my way up,” and deals well with “pretty crazy and tense” circumstances.
That suits her daily schedule. Classes at Mission College are Monday through Friday. At 3 p.m. her mom, Rachel Munson, drives her to Ventura for her eight-hour cheer practice. She does homework in the car. She gets home around midnight.
That’s allowed her to achieve a 3.89 GPA at Mission College, and a whopping 4.89 GPA in high school. Kylie is ranked first in her major — biological sciences — at Mission, where she is enrolled part-time.
“You just have to study and do well, and focus. I don’t have any distractions,” she says.
Are there any subjects that give her trouble?
“Chemistry and biology are challenging, but I like it,” she says. “Math can be challenging,” she notes, before adding “not really.”
“It’s just school. I focus and do my best,” she says.
She does have free time “sometimes,” but doesn’t feel cheated out of her teenage life. She hangs out with friends — all of them are part of the cheer team — and goes to the mall and the movies.
None of those friends, however, are at her level of study, something that not even all her college instructors were aware of.
“I don’t think my professors knew I was my age,” she said.
Darlene Montes, a dean at Mission College, remembers meeting Kylie when she first enrolled.
“I asked her about her area of study at the time,” Montes said. “Without hesitation she answered, ‘I want to be a doctor.’ She was eleven.”
Kylie was 11 years old when she took Prof. Karen Crozer’s English class. Dr. Crozer was impressed with her work ethic and humility.
“I think she’s a hard worker,” Crozer said. “She wasn’t worried about what was normal for 11 (years old). She’s gone after what’s worked for her … She’s really driven.”
Kylie excelled in the class and displayed the maturity of an older student. She even helped her older classmates with their work.
“Students seemed pleasantly surprised to have such a young student in the classroom, but she had pretty normal interactions and students were happy to work with her,” Crozer said.
A Future Doctor
Next year will be a momentous one for this poised and focused teenager.
She wants to study medicine and is trying to attend a college that offers a program that allows for a “direct shot from high school to med school.”
She has applied to the major medical schools at Harvard, Brown, Stanford, UCLA, UC Irvine, and UC Santa Barbara, and will be doing some traveling starting January.
“I have interviews with all of them,” Kylie said.
“My goal is med school. If I have to do two more years of college and then apply to med school, that’s okay. But I would prefer to enter through the straight shot (to med school).
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. It’s interesting to me,” she said of her profession of choice.
Kylie has been doing some research and right now “I’m really interested and fascinated” by genetics. But she’s not committed to that field yet.
Rachel said Kylie has always wanted to become a doctor.
“She is very determined, dedicated, and focused. I feel when she sets her mind to something, she does not get distracted,” Rachel said.
Mom, a homemaker and dad, a manager at a company, are trying to give Kylie all the opportunities she can have.
“I want to live on campus and be part of everything. My parents will be close by wherever I go,” Kylie said.
“They’re excited. They’re very supportive, encouraging.”
Kylie is currently taking some time off with her family before getting back to her studies in January.
She believes that 2019 promises to be exciting and eventful for her.
“I hope that in 2019 I’m at a university where I can do my bachelors and med school. That’s what I hope. I’m excited to see where I go.”