More often than in past generations, influence from our entertainment shapes American careers. In a ZenBusiness poll, 58% of those surveyed revealed television or streaming shows, movies, books, and video games in some way inspired their career choice. One out of five of those in medical and healthcare fields reported that medical-themed stories in media either completely or moderately inspired them. Shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Chicago Med normalize ambition, portraying characters who overcome substantial obstacles to succeed. These are among Xnna Bolyard’s favorite series, and she says they’ve inspired her to chase down her dream of becoming a trauma surgeon. We won’t be the first to tell you she’s not bluffing.
If you need proof, consider that she’s already working on her CNA license as a junior in high school. “This is where I want to start,” Xnna tells us. “I had a medical terminology course last year, so I’m just working my way up the chain.” So far, her life mentors, Counselor Beth Kern and Assistant Principal Greta Krueger, have cleared the brush and directed her down potential pathways toward her aspiration. “They’ve been the two that have been really helpful,” she says. Xnna’s already in tune with the medical lingo and lets an acronym we have yet to hear slip during our conversation. She references “GSWs,” and our untrained minds reel from a chronic case of WT* until she educates us. GSWs = Gun Shot Wounds. The ability to discuss horrific injuries casually and professionally convinces us she more than has the stomach for the job.
There are doubters in Xnna’s life, and she’s rigged and ready to prove them DOA wrong. “I want to make up my own path for myself,” she says. The righteous indignation to prove her capability is like the glucose that cells convert into energy: telling her she cannot, ensures that she will. She explains that your background doesn’t define what you can or cannot do. No matter the climb or the cost, we can push past our limitations and circumstances. She believes this dearly.
Xnna also has a large number of supporters who are complete believers. “My stepmom is all for it,” she says. “She’s like, if you do that, I’m going to be so proud of you.” As someone who originally wanted to study cosmetology and devote herself to a different brand of follicular “surgery,” she proves that positive role models, in real life and our entertainment can energize us to change lanes that better suit our goals. Haters, be forewarned. Meredith Grey may have piqued Xnna’s interest in surgery, but her operating theater of choice will be far from theatrical, rather aseptic, chaotic, but she will be there, elbow deep and hands steady.
For now, Xnna is making college plans, researching careers in surgery, and imagining a future where she’s established in Seattle. The city has her kind of weather. “It’s a beautiful place. I just want to surround myself in a place like that.” Though she’s set on city living, she’s incredibly fond of the “big family thing” Vandalia has going. She’s active in the community, regularly donates blood, and wants nothing more than for others to explore life outside the boundaries of where they are, no matter how much they love the place. Whether you’re emotionally struck by the eccentric sous-chef character in the next Netflix original or follow the lead of the forensic psychologist from your favorite mystery film, Xnna has a message for you.
“I mean, people really have to start putting themselves out there, you know?” We couldn’t agree more. We’ll see you out there, Xnna, preferably not as a patient in your OR, but we can only hope you answer the call when medical crises pound at our doors.