Nursing student recipient of Highmark grant, committed to helping others through health care

PITTSBURGH — After experiencing both the good and not so good in health care, Carlow nursing student Alexandra “Alley” Slider has vowed to become a patient advocate in her career. 

Slider, 19, received a $5,000 Frontline Worker Grant from Highmark Feb. 12 to help with college expenses and advance her aspiring profession. She was chosen based on her grades and commitment to health care.  

The 2020 graduate of Meadville (Pa.) Senior High School knows firsthand the importance of quality and compassionate health care. She was born with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which has compromised several organs, and developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at age 13. 

Slider’s mother suffers from multiple medical issues, including iron deficiency and lupus, that have resulted in emergency medical situations. Between the two, they have had more than their share of hospital visits. 

“Knowing what it is like to be in the hospital situation myself and also seeing a loved family member being there, I can see it (nursing care) from two different perspectives,” Slider said. 

“I’ve seen a lot of good nurses and a lot of bad nurses, and after being part of that (hospital scene) most of my life, I decided I want to be part of the process to help people because I can relate to them,” Slider said. “I’ve seen nurses not be so great to me, and I want to help fix the system.” 

Slider recalls when several health care professionals refused to test her for COPD at age 13, saying the diagnosis was not possible because of her age. After repeated testing requests by her mother, the diagnosis was confirmed. 

“Experiencing that a lot of doctors and nurses don’t believe you because of your age makes me want to become a patient advocate,” she said. 

A freshman BSN major who hopes to become an anesthesiologist, Slider said she chose Carlow’s nursing school because of its state-of-the-art simulation labs

“Here I can truly experience being in a hospital without actually risking any patients’ safety. It’s a way of having hands-on experience without actually being in the hospital,” she said. 

Highmark’s Frontline Worker Grant initiative aims to support future generations of frontline caregivers by assisting college students pursuing health care careers.  

After receiving the grant, Slider took part in a Zoom conference with Highmark and Carlow officials. 

Carlow BSN Nursing Director Janice Nash said she is pleased that Highmark is helping students achieve their health care career goals, especially during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting students’ financial situations as well as health care professions. 

“Receiving grant money from Highmark or any other available scholarship source helps students worry less about finances and pay more attention and time to pursuing their academics,” Nash said. “She (Alexandra) is obviously a very hard-working student, considering her grades and that she has worked multiple jobs and has moved here on her own. In spite of her challenges and past experiences, she has this desire to help people and to give back.” 

Carlow President Dr. Suzanne K. Mellon considers Highmark a valuable community partner. 

“The Highmark Health network offers many opportunities for our students to participate in experiential learning opportunities,” Mellon said. “Nowhere is this more significant than in Carlow’s College of Health and Wellness and College of Arts and Sciences, where students in nursing and respiratory care receive the education and training they will need to become future frontline health care workers. 

“It is especially gratifying when Highmark demonstrates its commitment to higher education by providing a Frontline Worker grant for one of our students who is not only a fine student but also has great need.” 

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