Angela Wilhelm knows a thing or two about hard work and planning for the future.
“If you want something in life then you are going to have to work for it,” was a common refrain and grew to become what she said was her “steadfast philosophy,” instilled at an early age by her parents.
“My father, who did not attend college, always stressed the importance of secondary education so that I would have options in life and would not have to settle on a job or profession that I was not passionate about,” Wilhelm said. “Excuses, especially excuses that blamed others for my own failures or mistakes, were not accepted in my house growing up. Instead, professing self-accountability was the expectation.”
Learning that kind of awareness early on was something she felt propelled her down a natural educational path toward medicine later on.
Wilhelm grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, with older sister, Brandi, and younger brother, Christopher, who was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Although he underwent one heart transplant, Christopher passed away at 18 months. That left young Angela looking up to Brandi, nine years her senior, with strong ties to one another.
“I have always looked up to my older sister,” she said. “She has been everything from a secondary mother when I was younger to a confidante and best friend now that we are both adults.”
In addition to having a supportive big sis, Wilhelm had a solid family foundation of four grandparents in the area, who helped watch over the sisters during summer months while both parents worked full-time jobs.
“I have grown up witnessing the importance of honestly, hard work, and overcoming life’s challenges,” Wilhelm said. “My family sacrificed a lot to ensure my own happiness, something that I did not fully understand as a child. I was very involved with sports and many weekends were spent traveling to different tournaments. I am grateful not only for the memories that were made during those years, but also the life lessons that are gained from being a part of a team.”
While Wilhelm didn’t have one particular field of study in mind through her young life, she reached a point in high school where she realized she’d held a passion for health care since she was young, which had manifested itself many a Halloween with “scary surgeon” costumes.
“I frequently opted out of watching traditional cartoons for shows that would display surgeries and gory images,” she added. “As my family members would flinch at the sight of blood and broken bones, I always showed fascination. This being said, it was no surprise when I announced my senior year of high school that I wanted to go to college to become a nurse. I specifically remember giving a speech my senior year of high school that shared my career aspirations with my peers. I remember being prideful as I discussed what a Nurse Anesthetist did and how I was one day going to be one.”
Beyond her parents, grandparents and sister, Wilhelm draws inspiration from her husband, whom she says has been supportive through all her dreams and endeavors.
“He inspires me to be better,” she stated. “Better at loving others, better at being kind, and better at being true to myself. He puts so much effort and passion into his career and inspires me to do the same.”
Wilhelm’s dedicated work ethic started early. Although she contributed regularly at home with household chores, she knew she wanted to earn her own money and not just rely on her parents’ generosity.
“I was around the age of 10 when I got my first job working in a concession stand at a baseball park,” she said. “I remember looking forward to my weekly checks with my name on it and felt a deep sense of pride.”
Ever since then, she’s kept her nose to the grindstone. Her motivation came from a favorite historical quote: “Things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustled.”
“There are times when I am mentally or physically exhausted but I know that in order to achieve my goals I must not become complacent in my current successes,” Wilhelm said. “I am motivated by the desire to prove to myself that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. I want to honor my parents and their never ending love and support by capitalizing on the opportunities they have given me to be successful. Lastly, I am motivated by the desire to be able to provide a comfortable life for my husband and future children.”
Erickson Merkel Foundation Director Ben Ferin said that line of reasoning and how it obviously affected Wilhelm was why she’d been awarded this year’s $3,000 Jerome P. Merkel Scholarship.
“The EMF board was proud to award Angela Wilhelm as one of the 2016 scholarship recipients,” said Ferin. “Angela has demonstrated an exceptional track record of personal, professional, and financial success in the high-intensity and high-demand field of nursing. Her dedication, work ethic, and willingness for personal sacrifice to achieve her goals illustrated the workhorse characteristics we were looking for.”
That scholarship should provide some help in Wilhelm’s pursuit of her goals of being the best health care provider that she can possibly be.
“I want to be viewed at by others as a safe, competent health care provider that values teamwork and a good attitude,” she noted. “I want to be an asset to whatever company I work for and respected by my peers. I want to leave a lasting impression on the patient’s that I take care of.
“I do not necessarily want them to remember my name, but I want them to remember that they felt taken care of and safe in their weakest moments,” she continued. “Currently, my biggest goal I want to accomplish is to successfully graduate from CRNA school. After graduation, I hope to pass my national boards and get a job with an anesthesia company working as a CRNA. Eventually, I would like to incorporate my degree in Nursing Administration and be the lead CRNA for a company or be affiliated with a university that offers a Nurse Anesthetist program.”
Aside from her health care objectives, she would also like to see more education when it comes to younger generations’ financial literacy.
“I was fortunate to be raised in a home that taught me basic principles of smart money management and even was able to take a financing class in high school that taught me the importance of saving money, compound interest, and the spiraling effects of debt,” she said. “However, I know that not everyone has those opportunities. It is important to teach undergraduates not to get caught up on lustful purchases, such as a $400 purse that they really don’t need or a brand new car so that they will feel cool. Instead, to focus on long term financial goals such as owning a house, being debt free by a certain age, etc.”