Alumna Returns to Campus and Shares Her Power for Good Work

Six days after graduating from Masters in 2018, Scout O’Donnell underwent the first of several brain surgeries.

It has been a brave personal journey that began during her senior year when she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a lifelong neurological condition impacting the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

O’Donnell shared her inspirational story with the upper and middle school communities on Friday, February 9. It was her first time back on campus since her days as a Gold Key ambassador, TEDx speaker and member of the Honorary Photography Society.

“Seeing the campus with a new brain was an experience I find hard to put into words,” she explained. “Some major parts of my Masters experience came back as a blank memory while other places and experiences on campus I remembered perfectly. After my speech, it was strange going through my experience on campus and recalling which memories my brain kept and which it had to let go of to heal. Nonetheless, I was relieved to know the soul of Masters hadn't changed one bit.”

After noticing gaps in hydrocephalus research, O'Donnell teamed up with Johns Hopkins Medicine to start the first hydrocephalus and mood study, which offers support and medical care to patients managing the difficult cognitive and neuropsychiatric complications related to the condition. O’Donnell spoke passionately about the research she has initiated. Joining her at Morning Meeting was Amy Bortner, senior associate director of development for neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

Abbe Montaldo, director of middle school admission and O’Donnell’s advisor during her time at Masters, was beaming. “Scout looked so confident and strong up there — she really spoke beautifully and from the heart, which I think resonated with our entire community,” Montaldo said. “I am so proud of her for taking a stand and bringing awareness to hydrocephalus so people can access better care in the future.”

Humbled by the warm reception, O’Donnell says she has a lot to look forward to this year as she plans an October wedding and continues her online college studies at Northeastern University. 

“I'm taking every day I'm healthy as a gift, as brain shunts fail all the time and I never know when my next brain surgery will be,” she said. “For the past six years I have suffered from chronic head pain every day, so my goal is to work with Hopkins to find a way to reduce the days I spend in pain.”

Elena Olivieri, associate dean of purposeful engagement and middle school health teacher, facilitated O’Donnell’s visit to campus. “Scout and I met often to find ways for Masters to amplify her voice and mission,” Olivieri said. “Her presentations focused on ableism and invisible diseases, and several teachers and students reached out to me to thank me for bringing her here.”

SHARE Article