When Western New York native Julie Lindner made the decision to go to Trocaire College, she knew one thing about her future: She wanted to make a difference.
She didn’t believe in five-year plans, but she did believe in following her faith. As unexpected obstacles came her way, she gladly accepted them—even if they took her halfway around the world.
Twelve years, two pageants and three mission trips later, Julie continues to pursue her passion for nursing, volunteering and helping others.
The beginning: Mercy Hospital and Trocaire College
While growing up in Buffalo, NY, and graduating from West Seneca West High School, Julie Lindner had Trocaire College in sight.
“I knew I wanted to work in the operating room someday, and my family had a connection to the school,” Julie says. “My aunt received her RN at Trocaire, and my older sister also attended.”
In 2002, Julie received her nursing degree. She faced her own personal challenges along the way, but Trocaire helped her overcome them.
“I didn’t have an easy time in college,” she says. “I wasn’t someone with straight-A grades, and I really struggled with self-esteem issues. A lot of people told me I wasn’t ever going to be able to do it. But the Trocaire staff pushed me to be the best person I can be. They gave me hope. I worked hard and eventually realized I can do this after all.”
Trocaire also enabled Julie to continue volunteering — a vocation she began at an early age. During her time at Trocaire, she donated her time at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo and, to her surprise, felt like she belonged.
“I spent a lot of time volunteering with Mercy Hospital’s Youth Assisting Patients Program,” Julie notes. “I remember one summer a nurse walked up to me and told me she didn’t see many young people fit for the oncology environment. That moment, I realized that nursing can’t just be done by anybody — it requires selflessness and compassion — something I’d been practicing my whole life.”
The transition: From higher education to the OR
After graduating from Trocaire, Julie worked with Mercy Hospital as a floor nurse for one year, before receiving her Certified Nurse Operating Room (CNOR) from Trocaire as well. This allowed her to work in general surgery, orthopedics and even assist the cardiac team.
“Trocaire’s certification program that I could take after college made all the difference,” Julie says. “Being certified helped get my foot in the door, meet new people and get hands-on OR experience. I’m so grateful for that.”
In 2003, Julie moved to Kenmore Mercy Hospital, where she received her Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA) certification and worked for five years. There, she also met Dr. Jeffrey Meilman, a certified board plastic surgeon and the head of the Hope for Tomorrow foundation—a group dedicated to sponsoring medically needy individuals.
Through Dr. Meilman, Julie had the opportunity to go on three medical mission trips to Nigeria, Poland and Peru where she assisted in surgery for cleft lips and palates.
“Some things I can say I planned and hoped for, but this is one I would have never imagined I’d have the opportunity to do,” Julie says. “We changed those children’s lives, and it’s by far the most eye-opening experience of my life. Whether it’s a day spent in your community or a month-long mission trip, I would advise everyone to volunteer. It will change your life, too.”
Ms. Virgin Islands: Model and role model
In 2008, Julie decided she wanted to take a drastic cultural step —this time for more than just a few days. Her next adventure took her to the Virgin Islands, where she became a travel nurse for two years.
She spent much of her time in the OR, but also finally had some down time. She spent much of it, in fact, on pageants and causes that she felt strongly about.
“I used to be shy and skeptical of pageantry, but not anymore,” she says. “Competing gives women a platform to speak on what they’re most passionate about. For me, that’s being an ambassador for Relay for Life, the American Cancer Foundation, Save the Children, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). It’s part of my volunteer work. I can focus on my health, but more importantly, it allows me to be an inspiration to other girls.”
This past July, Julie competed and won Ms. Virgin Islands United States and Ms. Photogenic United States.
“I was so excited to win on a national level,” she says. “I began pageants at age 14, but never imagined I’d come this far. It means so much to me now that I’m in a position to act as an educator and role model for others. I just hoped to make a difference.”
Through her association with the Miss United States Organization, Julie caught wind of Fashion Hero — a new television show aiming to change the unhealthy and unrealistic standards of the beauty industry. Out of the 100 selected participants, Julie Lindner made the cut. It will air worldwide in February 2015.
“I hope this show is going to change the beauty standards,” Julie says. “I want to shed some light on the industry and help provide self-esteem to young girls.”
Although Julie achieved amazing accomplishments, she believes her competition days are over.
“I gave it my all,” she says, “but it was just a positive chapter in my life — and for that, I thank God. I know I didn’t just happen to get the job at Kenmore Mercy, the mission trips didn’t just fall in my lap, and I didn’t win those competitions by luck. Everything happens for a reason, so I have to believe that I’m in the right place at the right time.”
In 2010, Julie relocated to California, where she returned to the operating room and has been actively traveling to the Virgin Islands since.
“Once I’m a nurse, I’m always going to be a nurse,” she said. “I’ve explored other careers but I can’t think of anything else that gives you the gratitude of making that difference in someone’s life.”
What’s next for Julie Lindner?
Today, Julie is located in Calabasas, Calif., serving as a nutrition and weight loss consultant. Although she continues to help others, she calls this her temporary “down time.”
“I plan on doing so much more,” Julie notes, “but I wanted to try something new. It’s really provided me a flexible schedule so I can travel, participate in filming The Fashion Hero, and accomplish humanitarian work.”
Although God’s plan has taken her around the world, Julie plans to return to her roots in Western New York.
“New York is home to me. I’m proud of where I came from, of Trocaire College — hey, I might even go back to school again,” she laughs, “but I’ll definitely be back.”
Julie may not know the future, but she knows what keeps her going.
“I’m happiest and healthiest when I’m helping people,” she says. “I can only plan so much in my life until God changes it, but I know I want to continue to help people — no matter if it’s traveling, nursing, or something completely different.”
As Julie entered her first semester at Trocaire, she wanted to make a difference. She believes Trocaire has prepared her with the knowledge and resources to be able to continue that throughout her life.
“I learned it a long time ago, but I still feel it’s the whole purpose of life — to make a difference on somebody and on the world. Even if it’s the smallest impact, I still believe that to this day, it’s what makes me the happiest.”