Hayley Gibson ’20 had her future all mapped out. A Colby degree. A gap year. Medical school. But when the pandemic squelched not one but all four of her gap-year job offers, she found herself hanging.
Hayley Gibson ’20

Hayley Gibson ’20

That’s when she turned to familiar friends: DavisConnects and Jessica Matzko, director of pre-health advising there. Matzko had just learned of a job through Colby’s Pay It Northward initiative she felt would be ideal for Gibson. It had the patient contact and exposure to a medical office that Gibson wanted.

In July Gibson started that dream job at Falmouth Women’s Health, a private OB/GYN practice in Mashpee, Mass., owned by Laura Keally Heywood ’94 and her husband, Dr. Richard Heywood.

Suddenly, Gibson’s gap year never looked so good.

“It’s the perfect connection between Colby, where I am now, and where I want to go next,” said the chemistry/biochemistry major from Pennsylvania.

As the front office administrator, Gibson gets a 360-degree view of the practice from the patient, physician, and administrative perspective. She answers the phones and triages calls, a challenging task since many callers are in crisis. She also checks patients in and out and juggles administrative tasks, including insurance billing. Mix in some occasional work as a medical assistant and Gibson is involved in every aspect of the practice.

It’s a side of medicine she’d not seen before. Her only previous experience was volunteering at MaineGeneral Hospital as a student.

“The great thing about this position is that it’s exposure to and learning about the medical field that you will never get in medical school,” said Laura Heywood, the practice’s office manager. “By the time you get this as a physician, you’re already in 10 years.”

Gibson believes that as a result of this job she’ll be a better, more informed physician in the future. It’s affording her a holistic view of the patient experience, which dovetails with her interest in osteopathic medicine, a field that Dr. Heywood also pursued. The two of them have engaged in discussions about medicine and careers, which has reaffirmed Gibson’s passion for both osteopathic medicine and women’s health.

But passion is just one attribute Gibson brings to the job. Motivation, intelligence, and intuition are among the many others.

Laura Keally Heywood ’94 (center) and Dr. Richard Heywood hired Hayley Gibson ’20 (right) to work in their OB/GYN practice as part of Colby’s Pay It Northward initiative.

“She’s a confident, active learner with a great attitude” and the right blend of patience, tact, and toughness, Heywood said. They’re skills that Heywood didn’t see in other applicants for the job. Given that Gibson went to Colby, however, Heywood’s not surprised she has them. “Part of it is personality, but part of it is having been through the wringer of going to a college that challenges you. Getting through some tough spots, you realize, ‘I can do this,’” she said. “You come out the other side, and you learn from it.”

“The great thing about this position is that it’s exposure to and learning about the medical field that you will never get in medical school. By the time you get this as a physician, you’re already in 10 years.” —Laura Keally Heywood ’94

At Colby, Gibson learned to “jump right in and figure things out,” whether conducting research in the atmospheric chemistry lab or competing on the rugby pitch. It’s an approach she’s taking at Falmouth Women’s Health. At the same time, she relies on guidance and support from her fellow Mule. As a result, they’ve developed a special bond likely to last well beyond Gibson’s gap year.

For Heywood, helping a student during this time in history feels like the right thing to do. “College graduates really need to feel like they’re needed, they’re wanted, that they can do things.” Heywood knows that this experience will be invaluable when Gibson decides where she wants to work. In a large hospital? With a physician group? In a community-based clinic? “It’s hard to go back and remake decisions that lead you down certain paths,” Heywood warned.

Given Gibson’s early exposure to another side of medicine, it’s less likely she’ll have steps to retrace down the road.