Her Degree Is in the Bag

Working in her family’s vacuum store has given Emily Schehlein, '13, skills she’ll apply as a physician

By Rita Buettner  |  Photo by Nick Alexopulos, '03

Meet Emily Schehlein, ’13.

She’s a biology and chemistry interdisciplinary major who decided to pursue a career as a doctor after growing up with two siblings who have autism and other disabilities.

She’s headed to University of Maryland School of Medicine on an academic scholarship.

She’s the founder of the Loyola Scrabble Club, president of the Chemistry Club, and the Class of 2013’s speaker at Commencement.

She’s the first person in her family to graduate from a four-year institution—and she’s graduating Phi Beta Kappa.

And for as long as she can remember, she has helped with the family business—a vacuum cleaner store in Parkville, Md.

“Medicine is an innately social profession, and you never know who’s going to walk through that door,” said Schehlein, a resident of Phoenix, Md., who lives on campus. “My experience working in our store has really helped me create a unique set of skills that I can carry on to medical school.”

Three generations working together have established Bagdon’s Vacuum Cleaners as one of the best-known vacuum sales and repair stores in the area. Her mother’s father was a Hoover salesman who bought the business, based in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood, from Mr. Bagdon. When Schehlein’s parents, Debra and Guy, got married, they opened their own store in Parkville.

This summer Schehlein is helping her parents move the store to a larger location in Parkville, where she has been working with her grandfather to bring a vintage look to the new space. She’s also planning to create a website for the business and set her parents up on social media.

Then in August she’ll start medical school.

Answering a Call

As the younger sister of two older siblings with special needs and challenges, Schehlein felt a calling to become a doctor early on. In fact, when she received her medical school acceptance letter, her mother went to the basement and brought up a poster from kindergarten.

“It said my favorite color is red and I want to be a doctor,” Schehlein said. Her mother also found a photo (left) of Schehlein dressed as a doctor as a child.

“Growing up with siblings who have disabilities has been a huge inspiration for me to want to have a career in medicine,” said Schehlein, who graduated from Notre Dame Preparatory in Towson, Md., and is a Knott Scholar at Loyola. “I think that’s given me a unique set of skills and a unique perspective to want to serve people.”

And watching her parents raise her and her siblings gave her a perspective on all she could accomplish.

“My parents are such great people,” she said. “They have been such an inspiration to me with everything they’ve done. It is certainly a challenge to raise three kids, especially when two children have disabilities.

As a Loyola student, Schehlein has volunteered at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital and Kennedy Krieger Institute.

“When you have autism and the other disabilities that my siblings have, it doesn’t really get better. It’s not something you really can improve on. That’s something that drew me to research projects at the Kennedy Krieger Institute,” said Schehlein.

She focused on two projects, one searching for links between Restless Leg Syndrome and low iron and one looking to see whether a gene causing low cholesterol might lead to autism.

Meeting a Need

During the summer, Schehlein also volunteered at Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, Md., a rural area on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. And she is considering returning there after she has her medical training.

“Since that part of the state doesn’t have enough physicians, I have been thinking that after I specialize, I might go back there to practice. There’s not a huge draw for the doctors to go there, and I think everyone should have access to health care,” said Schehlein.

Receiving a scholarship from the University of Maryland School of Medicine was completely unexpected, she said. “I was so shocked because you don’t really get scholarships to medical school—and it’s paying for almost half of my tuition. I cried when I got that letter.”

Proud Evergreen

When Schehlein chose Loyola, she liked that she could stay close to her family, but she also felt drawn to its Jesuit values and the opportunities she could embrace.

“When I came here, I really wanted to take advantage of everything that Loyola had to offer. There’s so many ways to get involved through leadership and service opportunities. And I feel like I have,” she said. “I loved Loyola so much, and I’m so excited for everything in the future. Loyola has given me so much, funding my education, and giving me a huge faith base that I’m so thankful for. I’m ready to graduate, but I’m very nostalgic.”

One of the ways Schehlein got involved on campus was as an Evergreen for Orientation for the incoming students. And each year she would offer them some advice.

“I tell this to the first-year students—we call them shrubs—I always encourage them to get involved, but at the same time I encourage them to really focus on academics. Learning those lessons and learning those values in the classroom, and acquiring knowledge that you then can apply to the outside world, and reaching out to Baltimore City from Loyola’s campus,” she said. “Knowledge isn’t just acquired in the classroom. Once you get it, you need to move out and further your involvement beyond the classroom.”

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  • Posted by Uncle Tony | May 8, 2013


    We are very proud of you and your accomplishments. I can”t wait to call you Doc Emily.

    Maureen, Savannah, Anthony, and Nicky all say Hi


    Uncle Tony

  • Posted by ike and Carole | May 18, 2013

    Way to go Emily..Congrats..

  • Posted by Aunt Kay and Uncle Gordon | May 18, 2013

    Hi Emily,
    Your entire Atlanta Family is proud of you and your accomplishments. We know that you will have a great carrer as a doctor. Happy graduation and good luck in medical school.
    All our love,
    Aunt Kay and Uncle Gordon

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