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Khyla Burrows - An Athlete’s Journey Into Medicine

An Athlete’s Journey Into Medicine

Her ski racing background drew Khyla Burrows to the real-time pressures of the OR.

minute read

Written by Greg Glasgow on March 11, 2021
What You Need To Know

This story is part of the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Match Day coverage.

Khyla Burrows wants to pay it forward. Physicians helped the fourth-year medical student through her share of injuries when she was a young ski racer growing up in Winter Park, Colorado. She started ski racing at age 6 in the Winter Park Competition Center and raced all over the country to compete on a national level. She came to the University of Colorado School of Medicine to train to play the same role in the lives of others.

“The doctors that cared for me made such a positive impact on my life and my spirits, and I really wanted to be there for other people in their journey toward health, whether it was athletics or otherwise,” Burrows says.


Khyla Burrows

From Winter Park, Burrows went to the University of Colorado Boulder for her undergraduate degree in integrated physiology and to compete on CU’s Division I ski team. An internship in orthopedic surgery brought her medical career into sharper focus.

“I really liked health and science,” she recalls. “I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted my path to be, but by the time I reached my senior year I was very sure I wanted to go to medical school and pursue that degree.”

When it came time to apply for medical school, the Colorado native knew she wanted to stay within the University of Colorado system.

“I was really fortunate to go to CU Boulder and see how strong of an education you get at CU, and with the CU School of Medicine being right in Denver and knowing how well med students were treated there, how well patients were treated on the Anschutz Medical Campus — I had some family members who were patients there, and seeing it from the student side in undergrad and as a family member of patients, I knew that was definitely where I wanted to go,” she says. “It was one of the best days of my life when I was accepted there.”

Finding her path and pursuing her passion

Her interest in orthopedics faded as she began taking classes but Burrows soon found a new interest in OB-GYN, thanks in part to her role on a research team led by Terry Harper, MD, associate professor of clinical practice in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

“We were counseling moms-to-be and figuring out how to better support women who are desiring pregnancy,” she says. “Especially in maternal-fetal medicine, it’s women with a lot of different health conditions and trying to set them up for success during pregnancy. We were looking at how we can change things at CU, standardize some counseling. We had some great data that resulted from it.”

Burrows says the study represented the kind of community-based work and relationship-building she hopes to continue performing during residency and throughout her medical career. She is now awaiting Match Day on March 19 to find out where she will do her residency in OB-GYN. The specialty allows Burrows to remain in the operating room, a place she feels particularly drawn to due to her athletic background.

“The first day I stepped into the OR I was like, ‘Yep, this is where I want to be; this is exactly what I want to do. It felt more similar to a sport than any other part of medicine,” she says. “I could visualize what I was going to do; I could practice what I was going to do; then when you’re in the OR, it’s like game time. Time to perform, time to work with your team.”

Supported by the school, inspired by classmates

As Match Day approaches, Burrows says she is in the same boat as her fellow students — filled with a mix of uncertainty and excitement, ready to end the long journey of medical school and take the next step toward a career as a physician.

“One of the best things about medical school is my classmates. My classmates are so amazing,” she says. “Every single person has such an interesting story and so much to offer. None of us are the same person, not even close. Equally important has been the support of the school. From day one, the Office of Student Life and the deans and the faculty — whatever it was I needed, whether tutoring, course advising or career counseling, I knew I could find someone and be plugged in to identifying and solving those problems. As a Class of 2021 co-president, I have a great working relationship with the deans and know how tirelessly they work to address student concerns or issues.”

Once she finishes her residency, Burrows, who is also a CoBank Rural Track scholar, hopes to practice OB/GYN in a rural mountain community in Colorado.

“At this point, I am still open to pursuing fellowship training and following in the footsteps of my mentor, Dr. Harper, who is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist,” she says. “Access to the outdoors and being able to partake in my favorite mountain activities is very important to me, and I plan on incorporating these activities into my life as a resident and beyond residency.”

Burrows matched with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California Davis.

Topics: Education, Students