There was a time when a Merced mother had trouble walking anywhere, but on Mother’s Day, she’ll walk pain-free across the commencement stage at UC Merced.
Pamela Payne is on path for her third career as she’s soon off to graduate school at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Missouri. The 42-year-old has moved around the central San Joaquin Valley, but Merced is home.
It was her experience with doctors that led her into studying cognitive science. In recent years, she started having constant back pain but could never find a solution from doctors.
“I finally saw the right doctor who told me what I was dealing with the whole time was a completely herniated disc and two broken vertebra,” she told the Sun-Star.
With the right diagnosis, she was able to have successful surgery. That meant she had to take two weeks off of school and then wore a back brace for eight weeks.
After those years of going through that, she’s decided there’s just a lot more to medicine than a prescription pad.
Lynne Bese on her daughter, Pamela Payne
“I feel like there’s a huge gap between a patient and a doctor when it comes to communication,” she said. “Ultimately when you look at communication, there are words that make us feel a certain way. How we talk about things is the way we feel about things.”
Her area of study is a reflection of the poor care Payne received for many years of back problems, according to Lynne Bese, Payne’s mother. Her back problems had gotten so bad, she’d had difficulty walking.
“She went through a lot of years of people just handing her prescriptions and drugs instead of finding the problem before they finally realized she had a broken back,” her mother said. “After those years of going through that, she’s decided there’s just a lot more to medicine than a prescription pad.”
Payne said she had other options for a four-year college after she was done at Merced College, but she wanted to stay local. “I feel like there’s something to be said for investing in the community,” she said.
UC Merced is a young campus at 12 years and it’s filled with students in their 20s.
She’s not just kind of in ‘what grade do I need to get’ mode. She’s actually thinking about the issues, and that’s characteristic of the best students.
Jeff Yoshimi, who researches philosophy and cognitive science
“Nobody thinks I’m a student,” Payne said with a laugh. “I’ve had professors walk up to me where I’m sitting with a backpack and a book, literally studying, and (they) ask me, ‘What do you do here?’ ”
At UC Merced, Payne worked for Jeff Yoshimi, who researches philosophy and cognitive science.
“When she’s thinking about a problem, she’s really thinking deeply about it,” he said. “She’s not just kind of in ‘what grade do I need to get’ mode. She’s actually thinking about the issues, and that’s characteristic of the best students.”
Noting that 42 isn’t really very old, Bese said it’s difficult for anyone raising children to go back to school. Payne, a mother to 14- and 19-year-old daughters, did that while dealing significant pain.
“She should be very motivating to people who want to move on with their life and do something different,” Bese said.
It’s not lost on Payne that she’s graduating during the ceremony on Sunday, Mother’s Day.
“When I got accepted to the grad program, it was overwhelming. It means a lot to me to walk on Mother’s Day,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “It means a lot to let my mom see that.”