Mackenzie's STEM Story: A Second Chance at Life

Heart transplant recipient helps cardiovascular patients in career as biomedical engineer working with Abbott vascular technologies.

REACHING YOUR POTENTIAL     |    Nov. 2, 2022

Mackenzie Tannhauser doesn't take any of life's milestones for granted.

Graduate high school. Go away to college. Earn a biomedical engineering degree. Start a STEM career. Travel to 20 countries.

She has done it all over the last 11 years, but there was a time when Tannhauser wondered if she ever could — or would.

When she was 8 years old, Tannhauser found herself exhausted, sitting on the sidelines during soccer. That year, she was diagnosed with an irregular heart rhythm. Her condition worsened despite more than 10 surgeries over the following five years. Eventually, she was put on the heart transplant list.

Everything changed at 11:40 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2011, when Mackenzie was alone in her hospital room. Her doctor called and told her a heart was available and surgery would be the next morning.

Tannhauser calls Sept. 7, 2011 – 11 years ago this year – "a day I will remember forever."

"I was given a second chance at life," she said.

Tannhauser decided to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in college after becoming fascinated with cardiology during her treatment. At Abbott, she says she has the chance to work with encouraging and supportive female scientists and engineers.

Today, Tannhauser is in good health and works as a field clinical specialist with Abbott's vascular team, supporting people in clinical trials for the next generation of Abbott cardiovascular innovations.

"Every day I have the opportunity to see how our technologies are impacting the lives of people with cardiovascular disease, just like me," she said.

She hopes her story inspires other young women and girls to pursue STEM careers. Her advice? Find personal cheerleaders, seek out STEM mentors and be curious.

"A career in science and engineering offers so many opportunities to help people live healthier lives," Tannhauser said. "I want other women to know they can do it too."