Doctor at age 23 gives credit to her Idaho education

At age 12, Danielle Ahlstrom said she wanted to be a pharmacist.

At age 23, she’ll graduate with a Doctor in Pharmacy degree from Idaho State University.

The fast road to a career was a challenge for Danielle, who maintains a 3.99 college grade point average. She said she “pulled an all-nighter” at least once a week for the last four years in order to keep up.

Danielle HS Graduation w Fam
Danielle Ahlstrom with her family following her high school graduation. The home-page photo is of Danielle and her finance, Robby.

She’s an Idaho graduation success story — one of many that will be celebrated this May — who gives high praise and much of the credit to her Meridian and Pocatello schooling.

“She is super intelligent, kind, friendly and incredibly engaging,” said her high school teacher Pete Kinnaman. “She makes navigating the trials of life look really easy. Though I am sure she had problems and frustrations, you would have never known it.”

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Danielle cherishes the time she spent at Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School, where health sciences are integrated into the curriculum. She was a member of the school’s first freshman class in 2003. She graduated in 2007 with skills that prepared her for a swift and successful collegiate experience in the health-science field. A couple of her 42 classmates will be in her wedding this summer.

“Attending MMACHS was by far one of the best decisions of my life,” she said.

  1.  The small-school atmosphere — 200 students in four grades — encouraged her to become more involved in school and take leadership roles.
  2.  She was able to earn 35 college concurrent credits, which allowed her to complete pre-pharmacy coursework quickly and have a lighter class load so she could focus on the more intense classes.
  3.  The required internships at MMACHS matched her with the Boise VA Medical Center. She instantly fell in love with the center and has worked there ever since. It’s where she will be completing a pharmacy residency starting in July.

“The basic study skills and the sense of determination that were cultured during my time at MMACHS, allowed me to excel in college,” Danielle said. “My study methods and note taking skills now are exactly the same as those utilized during high school.”

Danielle will be completing a pharmacy residency focusing on ambulatory care with an emphasis in academia. She also will earn a teaching certificate. She wants to be a clinical pharmacist where she can interact with patients and collaborate with a health care team. She plans to teach along the way.

“Attending MMACHS seemed like a great way to prepare me for my goal, and it certainly did,” she

Danielle White Coat Ceremony 2
Danielle wearing her first doctor’s coat.


She almost didn’t get to attend the exclusive charter high school sponsored by the Meridian School District. Her name was not drawn in the first lottery. When some kids changed their minds, she was selected in the next round. Her brother was able to follow her, and he’s studying at ISU also in the health sciences profession.

“Looking back, I realize I owe MMACHS a lot,” she said.

She also credits her parents. Her father is a computer engineer and her mother is a teacher in Meridian.

“She exhibits tremendous character, that I am sure has been cultivated through their modeling and seizing moments to instill life lessons,” Kinnaman said of the Ahlstroms.

Danielle juggled much more than her studies over the last 10 years.

  • She is an accomplished dancer. She took lessons from Ballet Idaho and danced for ISU’s Student Dance Company.
  • She served as Vice President for the University Honors Program.
  • She was Co-chair of Generation Rx.
  • She chaired of Operation Diabetes, which involved organizing numerous patient outreach projects throughout Idaho.
  • She won the Outstanding Student Award for ISU’S College of Pharmacy.

Danielle will graduate in May, get married in June to civil engineer Robby Colson and start her residency in July.

“She maximizes opportunity when it comes,” Kinnaman said. “I would love to bottle her ability to cope with and handle the things that she has surely struggled with, because she made it seem so effortless.  That is real toughness.”

Danielle Derek Ahlstrom - brother
Danielle with her brother Derek, also a graduate of MMACHS and a health-science student at Idaho State University.


Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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