Leigh Sundem, MD, is one of Georgia Southern University’s most gifted, committed, motivating, and sincere graduates. Hers is a remarkable narrative of perseverance, devotion, and compassion. Li hopes that her family and friends will find a way to remember her life and be open about it, a life marked by conquering drug addiction and breaking the connections that came with it by becoming a doctor. stigma.
Our purpose in creating this scholarship fund was to honor her relentless efforts to influence people’s perceptions of recovery by sharing her story, just as she did during her 13 years of recovery. The Memorial Scholarship Fund supports recovery from addiction for individuals enrolled at Georgia Southern University who are pursuing a degree in a health-related discipline or a STEM field. “If you work hard and focus on what you love, life outside these walls will be bigger and better than you ever imagined.
Never give up hope. When you finally get fired, put the same work ethic, Focus and enthusiasm apply to everything you do.” Your donation is tax-deductible and will directly fund the South Lysendham Georgia Scholarship. On April 14, 2020, our dear friend Leigh Sundem took her own life in the pain of not being able to achieve her dream, and she worked tirelessly to achieve it, and it was worth it on her merits alone.
Everyone who knew this ambitious woman who overcame countless obstacles was left with overwhelming sadness and confusion. Li’s battle with alcohol and drug addiction began in middle school, when she started drinking to escape feelings of depression and anxiety. Things moved quickly, and a few years later, when she was in a juvenile detention center for her 16th birthday, her regular drug use was quickly affected. Over the next few years, Li was jailed on and off while continuing to battle her drug addiction.
This part of the story is best told in her own words and can be heard when she fearlessly spoke for others in recovery ten years ago In 2007, while on probation, she followed a Georgia State Patrol officer at a red light. She can choose to complete her 7-year sentence or go to a long-term care facility.
That moment became the catalyst on her road to recovery. She chose Statesboro, Georgia, where she spent more than two years participating in an intensive addiction treatment program. She started seeing her incredible potential and started dreaming while working a minimum wage job in the hospitality industry to pay for her treatment. She dreams of giving back to those in need in various ways.
Early in her recovery, she decided to study medicine and help as many people as possible in the process. With her own goals in mind, she works to overcome and correct her mistakes as a teenager and young adult. She realized that in order to be successful, she needed to build a support system and accountability network. Building on this,
She hopes to show that investing in people recovering from substance use disorder is not a liability, but an asset. During this time, she became an outspoken advocate and ally in the fight against addiction. From 2008 to 2012, she was a member of the founding class of undergraduate students at the Southern Georgia Center for Drug Rehabilitation (CAR). At the time, there were only a handful of such programs in the country. One of the center’s primary missions is to provide students like Leigh the opportunity to earn a college degree and provide resources to ensure recidivism prevention and academic success. Many academics describe college life as a mild environment, and the CAR program was just the support she needed to meet the unique challenges she faced.
With this new drive and determination, and supported by her recovery network, she became one of the most distinguished graduates of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Leigh graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Southern University’s Collegiate Honors Program in 2012. She achieved the 99th percentile on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), one of the highest scores the university has ever achieved.
She immediately entered the University of Rochester School of Medicine to pursue a medical degree with the ultimate goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Leigh was also recognized as a Distinguished Researcher after completing her course. During her tenure at the University of Rochester, she received several research awards and grants. While searching for a place to live, Leigh has gone to great lengths to make her dream come true. She has always been candid about her recovery journey, she has proven that her past is an asset rather than a burden, and she has participated in a 12-year voluntary monitoring program to demonstrate that she is serious about her means of recovery of.
However, many programs have been reluctant to accept individuals with drug and alcohol-related criminal records. Leigh was devastated when she didn’t fit into the orthopaedic surgery program. Never complacent, she quickly found a temporary surgical position at Rutgers and began her emergency medicine residency next year.