health studies

Sam Hearn '23 has always had a big heart, figuratively. The real story of his heart is much more complex.   

This summer, Hearn will work at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Founded by actor and philanthropist Paul Newman in 1988, the camp, with locations in Connecticut and Maryland, is exclusively for children with serious illnesses. Hole in the Wall treats its campers to traditional summer camp activities, only modified so that children with physical and medical limitations can participate. This summer, the campers will take part in a hero's journey. There will be hikes and adventure rife with challenges, but the kids will gain confidence and a new perspective by the end. Hearn will be an expedition leader, and he'll have the chance to share the trials and tribulations of his own journey. 

Hearn was three years old and at the doctor's office for a routine wellness visit. A nurse put the stethoscope to his chest, Hearn took a deep breath, and the visit was no longer routine. 

"The nurse told the doctor she heard wind in my chest. I was referred to a cardiologist, and they found a quarter-sized hole in my heart. I underwent two open heart surgeries in Boston without complications. I was very lucky. For a lot of kids with similar conditions, it's not detected until they collapse while playing a sport."

Hearn was only three, but he holds onto vague memories from his time in the hospital. Instead of specifics, he remembers the feelings. He remembers the comfort he felt from the nurses, or the way clowns made him laugh at the hospital. He remembers the extraordinary efforts the adults took to make him smile. That's why he's always wanted to work at Hole in the Wall, and it's also why he's committed to a career in health care. 

Originally, Hearn wanted to be a heart surgeon, likely in pediatrics. While at Siena though, he's been exposed to the business and community side of health care. Doctors work with one patient at a time, but administrators can impact the environment and culture of the entire system.

"In whatever I do, I want to make something better than I found it. I've learned a lot about how systems work, and what is required to initiate change. A big motivator for me is my interest in social justice. I'd love to be a chief purpose officer and focus on the mission and values of an organization."

There are no lingering consequences from Hearn's childhood condition. If anything, the surgeries gave him a greater appreciation for his heart and a stronger will to keep it healthy. He runs 50 miles per week and was the captain of his high school track and cross country team. He also loves to spend time outdoors. It's a passion he looks forward to sharing with his campers this summer.   

"I'm inspired to take what I've learned about service through my experiences at Siena and apply those lessons at Hole in the Wall, which is near where I grew up in Connecticut. From the toddler who required life-saving surgery, I have always dreamt of growing up to help sick children. Siena has given me this opportunity."

Sam Hearn '23

Hearn worked this past year as an executive intern in the President's office. He helped to launch and then chair the Presidential Leadership Council where he created, along with other members of the council, professional development and leadership events, including this spring's etiquette dinner. Hearn is also the student chair of the Spirit of '68 committee.