Brittany Johnson ’24 had a lot of life under her belt when she applied to Chaminade University.
She’d already served in the Air Force, after enrolling right out of high school. She’d earned her first degree—a bachelor’s in Community and Public Health from the University of South Carolina. She’d gone back into military service, joining the Army and shipping off to Hawaii’s Schofield Barracks.
Her experiences helped her grow—and drove her to realize something: she thrived on helping others.
So she decided to turn her talents to Nursing and applied to several universities as she prepared to complete her Army obligations. She was packing up, anticipating she would have to move back to the mainland, when she got word from Chaminade that she’d been accepted. “I ended up at Chaminade, was awarded scholarships to help and never looked back,” she said. “I am so happy that I did.”
In the Nursing program and across campus, Johnson said, she found a community that offered supportive encouragement and a warm atmosphere. They celebrated her unique perspective. And they connected her with a host of opportunities that helped her put her learning into action.
“There was a time in my life when I didn’t know the value of people. I didn’t know how to ask for or receive help,” she said. “But at Chaminade, I’ve always felt like part of the family. I could not have done what I have done without the people around me, my professors and mentors and my peers.”
It was helping hands at Chaminade that got her connected to a cutting-edge internship with the Air Force Research Laboratory, where she pored over research into nanomaterials. She focused on luciferase, a light-producing enzyme found in fireflies that can be used in x-ray machines.
The evolving technology could be a safer option, especially for those who require multiple x-rays.
Johnson analyzed the available literature to put together an in-depth poster on the potential opportunities and limitations with the nanomaterial. She then delivered a presentation to the board of directors for the program. The Air Force could now end up pursuing further research into luciferase.
For Johnson, the internship wasn’t just exciting, it was challenging. “Five years ago, I could not have projected I would be doing this kind of work,” Johnson said. “It truly took a team of people to do that.”
She liked the experience so much, she opted to extend it. This fall, she’s interested in researching nanomaterials that could help physicians detect cancer earlier, leading to better patient outcomes.
And that’s not the only internship that’s been keeping Johnson busy.
Chaminade also connected her with an internship for Summer 2022 with the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Hawaii chapter. She jumped at the chance to work closer with patients and their families while helping to raise awareness for a condition that not many people fully understand.
“Over the course of the summer, I did everything from help to plan events to assist with fundraising efforts,” she said. “But the highlight was attending a summer camp for kids with hemophilia. These kids feel ostracized a lot of the time, but at camp with their peers they got to really enjoy themselves.”
Kids with hemophilia often can’t participate in the same activities because their blood doesn’t clot properly, meaning even relatively small injuries can be dangerous. Hearing from families about how they manage the disease, Johnson said, helped her gain important perspective as a nurse in training.
“It was so fulfilling,” she said. “And it helped me put a spotlight on people whose voices we don’t oftentimes hear. I didn’t know these people are right next door to me. They’re in our community.”
As she makes progress toward graduation, Johnson said she is especially grateful to the Career Development team at Chaminade—especially career advisor Diane Yang. Johnson said the internships Yang and her team connected her with have helped her grow as a learner and a leader.
“It’s not easy to get out of your comfort zone,” she said, “but there’s no better way to learn.”