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“Choose Joy” Endowment Established in honor of ISU Alumna

POCATELLO- December 27, 2021

Choose joy. Words you could hear not only spoken, but could also witness being lived and embodied by the late Kami McGann, a 2005 Idaho State University graduate, mother of two and medical laboratory scientist. To honor her life and memory, the new Kami McGann “Choose Joy” Scholarship Endowment created by Kami’s husband Scott, aims to share Kami’s love of medical laboratory science, her infectious joyful spirit, and help with tuition costs for students at ISU. 

Though none of them know Kami, students enrolled in the Medical Laboratory Science program at ISU are eligible for the scholarship, which provided $1,000 to one student in this, its initial year. In future years, two students will receive scholarships, thanks to an outpouring of funds provided by Kami and Scott’s business colleagues and friends, along with personal funds from Scott himself. Scott says he and their two young boys “wanted a way to recognize the phenomenal, amazing person that Kami was.” 

Kami McGann in a white coat using microscope in a lab

Britney Black was selected to receive the inaugural “Choose Joy” scholarship this year, by the Medical Laboratory Science Program Director, Dr. Rachel Hulse and faculty in the program. 

“The ISU MLS program is honored to be able to award the first scholarship from the Kami McGann Endowment to Britney Black,” says Hulse. “Britney is a hard-working master’s student in the ISU MLS program, who is dedicated to serving her future profession and she gets along well with her peers. In these ways, we find her to be a perfect recipient of this gift honoring Kami.”

The scholarship came as a surprise to Black, but is one that she is deeply honored to accept. She says, “When I got that email, it was the greatest surprise of my life. I am just so grateful to be in this program and be able to learn what I am learning. And I am incredibly grateful for the scholarship also, I am still mind blown about it. I would love to learn more about Kami and about her life.”

Kami McGann was Lab Manager and Lead Scientist for Valor Health in Emmett, ID. During her 16-year career there, it was not uncommon for her patients to report that they never bruised when Kami drew their blood.  

Those that knew her repeatedly share the same sentiment as they recall memories and recount her story. “Always joyful, with an infectious smile.” “Inspirational and able to choose joy in any situation.” These are a few of the most common phrases shared by her co-workers and friends. 

Brad Turpen, CEO for Valor Health and Kami’s boss, says it was her “choose joy” attitude that helped change the entire culture of the hospital staff, a mantra that Kami left as a lasting legacy that still perpetuates there today. 

In April 2019 Kami was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. After bravely conquering nearly two years of treatment, including seven types of chemotherapy, radiation and a lumpectomy, she passed away on February 19, 2021. Throughout her treatment, and even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she never missed a day of work and continued to provide meaningful care to her patients. And she did so with a positivity and cheerful optimism not typically expressed by those who have received a “non-curable” diagnosis. 

Her husband Scott says Kami’s love of science and devotion to her work, along with an insatiable curiosity and spirituality were the driving force in her positivity. “She just saw too much to miss out on to choose any other approach,” he explains.

Hulse says, “Kami was a beloved member of our professional MLS community. Moreso, she was a friend to all. Kami embodied service, integrity, work-ethic, and kindness.”

Britney plans to graduate in the spring of 2023 and, similar to Kami, looks forward to helping people in meaningful ways in her professional career. “I really love people and want to help people,” she says. “I really enjoy hematology and phlebotomy. I have this passion for biology and I think life is incredible, amazing and complex,” she says. 

To learn more about the Medical Laboratory Science program at ISU, visit isu.edu/mls

Kasiska Division of Health Sciences - Learn more about the Kasiska family legacy and impact