Taylor MacLean is a graduate student at Kean University currently earning her doctorate degree in clinical and school psychology, who was the winner of the $25,000 AbbVie Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship. MacLean suffers from cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects her lungs and digestive system, but through her own determination and never-quit attitude, she is able to continue her education at Kean and receive this great honor to help further her life and career goals.
Cystic fibrosis is a disease that requires daily care and symptoms vary by the day. For MacLean, she needs to take up to 30 pills a day and power through even her worst of days. However, her constant determination to never stop can cause her to get run down and sick.
"I have to find at least two hours a day to complete my treatments, which include a nebulizer and an airway clearance device, which for me is a vibrating vest that I wear. These things keep me healthy and are an essential part of my daily routine. In addition, I take close to 30 pills every day. This has become part of my life, so that doesn't bother me much. I have to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to getting sick. My immune system is weaker than the average person, which makes me susceptible to things like the flu and the common cold. So even if I am doing everything in my power to stay healthy, I sometimes end up getting sick anyway," said MacLean.
Because of her susceptibility to illness, MacLean spends a lot of time taking care of herself and seeing her doctors.
"Although I have to go often, I actually love seeing my doctors and care team because they have become my second family."
Through the time she spends taking care of herself, she has been able to establish herself as a successful student who is now attending graduate school at Kean after graduating from The College of New Jersey, Cum Laude, receiving a B.A. in psychology in 2016. She also is an active worker in the field of psychology. MacLean works as a part-time applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapist who works with children with autism and similar diagnoses. She also works at an elementary school as a school psychology extern.
"I lead different group therapy for students as well as provide support for the students and teachers on a weekly basis. I work with the school psychologist and have learned a lot about how mental health impacts a student's academic and social functioning."
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is the studying and improving of social, academic, motor and domestic skills in children and adults with certain disorders like autism.
A native of Belford, New Jersey, MacLean applied for the AbbVie Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship a few times before to no avail, but applied once again last year hoping it would be different. In May of 2017, she found out that she had won $3,000 and was qualified to continue to the next round of scholarships. The AbbVie Scholarship website opened the voting portion of the scholarship where people could vote who should win the scholarships.
"I contacted everyone I had ever even made eye contact with and asked them to vote. Without realizing it, apparently it worked. Sometime in the fall, I got a call while walking into class here at Kean. They told me I had won the scholarship. I could not believe it and immediately began to cry. I called my parents right after in disbelief to tell them the good news. I am so fortunate to have won this scholarship. It has relieved a lot of financial stress from my family and me and has allowed me take more time for my studies and self-care."
Because of the great support system that was always around her, Taylor MacLean is inspired to one day use her education and personal experience to counsel children and families with chronic disorders.
"As you can imagine, cystic fibrosis has impacted my mental health, which I have come to realize more recently. I have become very resilient as a result of this disease, but I also have struggled with excessive worry about my future and where I may end up. At a young age, I had to face things that most children don't. Luckily for me, I had an amazing support system that helped me deal with hardship as it came. Still, I had to grow up and learn how to advocate for myself and my health. Because of this, I have also learned to advocate for others. I know how chronic illness may impact mental health, which is why I want to work with children impacted by chronic illnesses. I hope to one day be a psychologist for children and families dealing with chronic illnesses."
MacLean is set to be graduating from Kean in 2021. She works as a student clinician at Kean Psychological Services. The Psychological Services is out of the Psy.D. Clinic located in Kean University's East Campus. They offer mental health services for adults, adolescents and children for a low cost and provide recommended treatments to patients. Appointments can be made by calling (908) 737-5890.
To learn more about Taylor MacLean's story and journey, you can watch her video on the Kean University website.