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Karen Stucker Rogers’ journey leading to the stage on Sunday to receive a bachelor’s degree in health sciences has been 33 years in the making and fraught with obstacles. However, not once did Rogers – a woman with fierce determination and spirit – let obstacles stop her from fulfilling her dream of completing her education.
A first generation college graduate, she began her education in 1978 and received an associate’s degree in radiography in 1981 at what is now Bluegrass Community Technical College. In the 20 years to follow, she worked her way up to management positions in her field of radiology in hospitals and clinics. It is also what happened in her personal life during those years that has perhaps taught her some of the greatest lessons in perseverance and carried her to this moment.
In 1997, a serious car accident and numerous surgeries left her in constant pain. After the wreck, she developed more health problems which made working very difficult. Adding insult to injury, she says she nearly went bankrupt after a lawyer cheated her out of a good sum of money. However, she didn’t let the experience make her bitter and she didn’t give up, crediting her faith, friends and a strong support network of getting her through a lot of hard times.
The challenges don’t end with the fallout from the wreck for Rogers; however, and life had a few more curve balls to throw. In 2000, Rogers’ moved her disabled mother in with her so she could care for her. She began coordinating medical care for her brother in October 2008, who was struck with a serious illness that nearly claimed his life.
Balancing work, health problems and being a caregiver, Rogers continued to think about growing in her career and it wasn’t long that she realized that the market was changing and standards were continually rising for radiology technologists and she decided to return to school in 2008. As the radiology clinical education coordinator for UK HealthCare, she knew she needed to set an example for other technologists by furthering her education and she set out to earn a bachelor’s degree in health sciences in Clinical Leadership and Management from the UK College of Health Sciences.
It was also around this time that Rogers met her husband, a traveling nurse, through an on-line dating site. She scoffed at the idea at first but said after praying about it, she decided to meet the man that was to become her husband. Despite having to care for her husband through a recent illness on top of her other responsibilities, the two are very active at their church providing the music, teaching, and visitation.
Soon after starting back to school, she had to drop out the fall semester of 2008 but true to her nature, she immediately returned the following semester in January 2009. She continues to have fibromyalgia flare ups and spent a week in the hospital this January related to her wreck. However, she was determined to graduate this semester and made up the missed assignments and tests to get back on track.
Rogers says she is very much like her father: a ‘type A’ personality who worked himself up through the ranks of Norfolk Southern Railroad. With only a high school degree, he began climbing phone poles to install railway signals and poured over books and blueprints by night until he was promoted to Signal and Communications Supervisor with the company. It is with some tears that Rogers says that he would be so proud of her today knowing how she has overcome so much to graduate.
Upon reflection, Rogers’ appreciates her journey to finally graduate with honors but knows her journey won’t end. “We need to develop ourselves; we need to be able to embrace change and be able to encourage and influence others around us’ and we need to set a new direction, plan a strategy for our future and lead by example.”