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Surgery inspired this dancer to pursue new dreams

A diagnosis of scoliosis put the brakes on 12-year-old Abbie Digby’s aspirations as a ballet dancer, but her subsequent surgery and recovery sparked a desire to pursue a career in medicine.

Six years later, Digby is a Carolina freshman, majoring in biology with her sights still set on medical school. She remembers the long hospital stay that inspired her interest in the medical profession.

“I wanted to know more than they were telling me,” says Digby. “They kept watering it down, which is understandable because I was just a kid, but I wanted to know what the treatments were doing and what my spine looked like.”

Digby’s determination to learn more, even while recovering in a hospital bed with a partial spinal fusion, reflects something of her academic prowess. The Upstate native was named class valedictorian at her high school this past spring, and the university named her a Stamps Scholar, its top merit scholarship for in-state students.

“I felt really wanted — like the university truly wanted me to come here,” Digby says. “With some of the other schools I applied to, it felt sort of like, ‘Yeah, you can come here if you want or not.’ ”

It wasn’t her intention, but by enrolling at Carolina, Digby continued a garnet-and-black family tradition that dates back to her grandparents Reggie and Carroll Brasington, who earned bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees from the university. Her grandfather was a long-time professor in what is now the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, and her grandmother was a math instructor at Midlands Technical College.

Digby’s parents both graduated from Carolina, as well, and her mother, Chandis, was also a Carolina Scholar, earning a chemical engineering degree in 1991.

Though dance once consumed nearly all of her spare time, Digby has hung up the ballet shoes for now. “I decided not to dance in college because of the rigor of the pre-med curriculum,” she says. But one day, who knows? — Digby’s determination might pave the way for a medical career and another pirouette on the dance floor.

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