NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When something affects those that someone loves the most, it has a funny way of serving as motivation in that person’s life. This is what happened to Vanderbilt women’s basketball freshman Kaylon Smith.
The loss of Smith’s grandfather fueled her to pursue a career as an endocrinologist, a medical professional that specializes in the treatment of diabetes and other diseases of the endocrine glands.
Diabetes has always been a part of Smith’s life, she says.
“My grandmother passed away from complications due to her diabetes when I was a little girl,” Smith said. “My little cousin was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age. He has battled health issues due to his diabetes, as well. But, my grandfather passing last year was what made me realize that I needed to become an endocrinologist and help adults and children battle this horrible disease.
“My grandfather was one of the strongest men I knew and my biggest supporter. Watching him battle diabetes was heartbreaking. I will never forget how that disease stole him from me.”
Sports can become a retreat for athletes. For Smith, basketball has become something she relies upon and puts her trust in. Smith said the sport can also become an outlet to express emotions in ways not possible through words.
"My grandfather passed during the playoffs of my junior year," Smith stated. "I was extremely emotional throughout that entire time leading up to the state championship game. I knew my grandfather would have loved to have been able to watch me play so I just played hard each game and dedicated the rest of my season to him. As a result, I played some of the best games of my high school career."
Vanderbilt women's basketball freshman Kaylon Smith
Smith’s trials have molded her into a driven young woman, determined to make a difference. That drive has led her to Vanderbilt as part of the Commodores’ seven-member freshman class in 2019-20. But Smith’s goals going forward will always circle back to memories of her grandfather.
“When I become an endocrinologist, my personal experience with diabetes is going to set me apart from others,” Smith said. “I will make sure I give my all to each and every one of my patients and work hard to help them live a normal, amazing life. I hope I can bring more awareness to the diabetes epidemic in our nation and, more importantly, I hope to one day find a cure for the disease.”
Smith plans to bring her fierce attitude and drive to the court and make a difference for the Commodores this season.