K alumna is both medical student and medical detective

Medical student Sarah Allexan

Medical student and sleuth, Sarah Allexan ’11

Sarah Allexan ’11 is the lead author of a research paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics that looks into the cause of blindness in Mary Ingalls, older sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the popular “Little House” book series.

Ingalls Wilder wrote that Scarlet Fever caused her sister to lose her eyesight. Allexan and her research team determined otherwise. Their findings have attracted a lot of news media attention, including an article in USA Today and an article in the New York Times. Sarah also participated in an interview with WMUK radio (102.1 FM), the NPR affiliate at Western Michigan University.

Originally from Englewood, Colo., while at K, Sarah majored in biology, studied abroad in Ecuador, ran on the Hornet cross country team, and sang in the Limelights student a cappella group. She also served as a bi-lingual tutor for first-graders at a Kalamazoo Public School, and completed both an internship at the Seattle Aquarium and an externship at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

Shortly after her K commencement, she took a job as a research assistant at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While there, she became involved in the Ingalls research project.

“It was fun tracing Laura’s journey and playing medical detective,” Sarah said. “This was my first real exposure to lineal reasoning and prepared me well for medical school.”

Sarah is now enrolled at University of Colorado School of Medicine. “But I bleed ‘Orange and Black!’” she said.


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About Andy Brown

As the Director of Media Relations and Online Content, Andy shares the stories that distinguish Kalamazoo College through social media, the Web and the news media. Contact him at abrown@kzoo.edu.