“Just a reminder that not everyone’s college journey looks the same.”

With that sentence, Makayla Henson recently reflected on social media about her time at Missouri Southern and the physical struggles she faced over the last several years. While she didn’t walk during the commencement ceremony held Saturday, May 14, she was no less proud of her accomplishment in obtaining her bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration.

Since the age of 7, Henson has battled Chron’s disease – an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive tracts.

“It can lead to ulcers, inflammation and obstructions, with periods of flareups and remission,” she said. “Treatments can be harsh.”

During her freshman and sophomore years, the Carl Junction native’s symptoms worsened and resulted in blood clots in her lungs and liver, and severe complications that led to three different surgeries.

“Nothing was working,” Henson said of the treatments she was undergoing at the time.

She eventually was admitted to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, where doctors removed half of her digestive tract. Later, she had an extended stay in a hospital in Alaska, where she was visiting her husband who is serving in the military. Her symptoms were worsening again and doctors there performed surgery when it was found she was suffering from malrotation of the small intestine.

All the while – whether it was during recovery or times when doctors were trying different treatments – Henson stayed focused on her studies and credits her instructors at MSSU for their willingness to help her succeed.

“My professors made it easy, to where I could do work from the hospital,” she said.

In all, it was a six-year journey from her freshman year to graduation. It was also a time of transition, as Henson’s interest in the healthcare field shifted from the clinical to the business side of the field.

“Since Makayla first came into our program, she was always driven and knew what she wanted to do,” said Melinda Brown, director of the Gipson Center for Healthcare Leadership and Henson’s advisor. “She was a phenomenal student and very dedicated, even through all the struggles she had to go through.

“She’s going to be a huge asset to the healthcare field.”

Having now graduated, Henson is also happy to say her doctors have found an effective treatment plan and that she’s focused on what her next steps will be.

“I eventually want to get my master’s degree, and I’m currently looking into analyst jobs (in the healthcare industry),” she said.

Having had experience in the classroom and as a hospital patient, Henson said she brings a unique perspective to the table.

“I want to make sure that all patients receive the quality of care they deserve,” she said.