MaLaura Creager has experienced quite a lot in her life. She and her brother are the first in their family to obtain bachelors’ degrees. And, MaLaura will be the first to attain her Doctor of Pharmacy degree when she graduates from CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy later this week. “My family is so, so proud,” says Creager, who will have her own cheering section at Commencement when 20 family members descend on Colorado to share her excitement. “They are so impressed that I will be a pharmacist.”
For Creager, the mantra “it’s not if you go to college, but when” that many families embrace was not reality.
Even though her family valued education, they just didn’t know how to get there. “I didn’t understand applications or the process. There was no one to work through it with, so I thought I couldn’t go because I couldn’t afford it,” Creager says.
Growing up in Utah and one generation removed from the farm, college was not as encouraged for women. In this day and age, that seems like a pretty foreign concept. But for Creager, “It was considered an unnecessary expense to fulfill my dream of going to school.” So, years passed. “It took a long time to overcome the barriers and discover financial aid,” says Creager. By the time she started her undergraduate program in Biology at Utah State she was already 27 and a single mother of a four-year-old daughter.
“I applied and got some scholarships and took a leap of faith.” She quit her job and lived off her scholarships. “It was terrifying. There was no one to fall back on,” Creager recalls.
In 2008, the economy bottomed out and she thought, “Oh, great. We’ll be homeless.” But her tenacity pulled her through. “I never thought about dropping out or skipping a year. I knew I just had to keep on going.”
For Creager, the challenges were real.
It wasn’t just simply that Creager was a single mother going to school. She was a single mother with a special needs child.
“In some ways having a high functioning autistic child has really provided me with an entirely different perspective. It’s helped tremendously with patient care,” says Creager who looks at her daughter’s condition as an issue of diversity versus disability. Her daughter, Evelyn, is 16 years old now and an autism advocate. “She’s taught me a lot — especially to accept the diversity of different types of brains,” says Creager. The two will be on their next adventure together when Creager goes to her PGY-1 residency at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque.