Beauty, Brains and a Mission
updated 09/15/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/15/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
HOMETOWN: Green Bay, Wis.
GOAL: A doctor, she hopes to win Miss America to promote organ donation in memory of her dad
Sauerhammer's ailing father, Randall, desperately in need of a kidney transplant, was watching her compete for Miss Wisconsin 2001 when the call came that a donor had been found. Randall missed the crucial call and died on Jan. 4,2002, his 45th birthday. Tina Marie placed fourth for the state title but vowed to try again—this time in honor of her father. "I wrote him a letter," she says, "and tucked it into his pocket at the funeral."
A cello player since she was 3, Sauerhammer skipped high school, went to college at 14 and entered the University of Wisconsin Medical School four years later. "The hardest part was [overcoming] the stereotype that I'd have no social skills," says the outgoing only child.
Before bagging Miss Wisconsin in June, she worked 30 days straight in a transplant surgery ward—"the most amazing experience I've ever had," she says.
A low-carb diet, jogging and Rollerblading and "just plain soap and water" for the face.
•Living the Dream
As a kid Sauerhammer and mom Oki, 49, a dressmaker, never failed to watch a Miss America show. "I can't believe I'm actually going to be on that stage," she says of the Sept. 20 pageant.
If she wins, "lives could be saved," says Dr. Hans Sollinger, head of transplantation surgery at University of Wisconsin Hospital. "People who haven't thought about it before might sign an organ card."