Don’t tell freshman nursing student Maire Nakada she can’t do something. Chances are, she’ll find a way to do it.
Nakada is very passionate about her goals. It’s the kind of drive that placed her among the top 40 in the world in competitive Irish dancing by the time she was 18 years old. And now she’s set her sights on becoming an ophthalmologist, and providing vision care to underprivileged people around the world.
“I’m thankful for what I’ve accomplished,” says Nakada. “I owe it to the people who believed in me and supported my goals throughout my life. There’s more I want to achieve. I believe that challenging yourself in life is how you grow as a person. To me, that means helping people. As long as I can help others I’ll be happy.”
Nakada grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, one of nine children of an Irish mother and Japanese father. She started Irish dance lessons when she was five. Soon after, she was winning dance competitions. At 17, she saved money and moved to Ireland for ten months to further her passion. She says that meeting new people has made her want to experience other cultures, and she sees dance as a way to reach them.
“When I travel to other countries someday to help with their health care, I want to teach the kids Irish dancing,” she says. “Dance is a language everyone can share.”
Of course, after traveling overseas, coming to Mobile from Alaska wasn’t a big leap.
“I knew South has an excellent nursing school,” she explains. “And the professors here are great. Besides, I really like Southern hospitality.”
After she gets her nursing degree, Nakada plans to work as a nurse and attend medical school. Her ultimate goal is to become an ophthalmologist and work for an organization such as Doctors Without Borders.
“I grew up in a beautiful place, where I could hike in the mountains almost every day,” she says. “I want others to be able to see the world around them. If I could give back sight to a child and help their family, I feel like it’s almost my duty.”