Hey everyone, I’m Bernice (she/her). I completed a dual degree course of study where I attended medical school at Emory University School of Medicine and pursued a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I am so excited to begin this next step of my journey and serve the people of Chicago’s south side!
I grew up in Springfield, IL and attended residential high school at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, IL. I then attended Princeton University where I studied Anthropology with a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy. During college, I served as a Medical Spanish interpreter at a local clinic and studied abroad in Spain and at the University of Havana, where I wrote a junior thesis in Spanish about the women’s healthcare infrastructure in Cuba. I also interned with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Center for Minority Health and engaged in HIV/AIDS advocacy and research. One of my research projects on novel treatments for Kaposi’s sarcoma was published in Blood Journal and led to an opportunity to present at the International Conference on AIDS & STIs in Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that year.
I began seriously considering medical school during a college summer program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Health Economics where I learned that my passion for public health policy could be blended into a career as a practitioner. Upon graduation, I was fortunate to be awarded the Allen Macy Dulles Service Award, given to the graduating senior student whose activities best exemplify the motto: “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”
After college, I worked with a New York City agency focused on early childhood mental health, before matriculating into medical school. There, I continued attending to vulnerable populations, serving as coordinator of a student-run clinic for those who lack traditional healthcare access (uninsured, homeless & undocumented individuals). I was also actively engaged with Student National Medical Association, Medical Spanish Interest Group, and Emory Health Against Human Trafficking. With the latter, I pioneered the idea to produce & direct The Vagina Monologues with a cast of my classmates and raised thousands of dollars to benefit domestic and international human trafficking organizations.
While doing my 3rd year clinical rotations at Grady Memorial Hospital, one of the largest public hospitals in the country, I was astounded by the resilience of the patients with whom I interacted. I also felt helpless every time we saw patients who we could not heal with a simple prescription, as their ailments were rooted in poverty and a system that continually fails them. I decided to take a hiatus from medical school after my 3rd year to study public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where I was fortunate to be chosen for a full scholarship. I wanted to dedicate time to reflecting on how I, as a practitioner, could serve as an agent of change both on the individual and systemic levels. At the Kennedy School, I was honored to be selected for a fellowship that allowed me to work on the gubernatorial transition team for then-incoming Governor JB Pritzker in my home state of Illinois.
I had never considered emergency medicine early in medical school. Several of my friends and mentors highlighted to me the ways that EM lends itself perfectly to a career of serving our society’s most vulnerable populations and allows me to apply my passion for health policy into my work. After only my first shift, I fell in love! The University of Chicago is the perfect place for me to launch into this career as it serves the resilient people of Chicago’s South Side, while having the resources of a world-class academic institution. It also has some of the happiest and most vibrant residents and faculty that I have ever met. I am still emotional when I think of how blessed I am to be starting my career here!
Outside of the hospital, I spend a lot of time creating content for my YouTube Channel “Being Bernice” (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdzBCduod8gs86tAJSPZCog), where I aim to make a resource for those who are curious about how to successfully get into and succeed in medical school, graduate school, and residency. I also love throwing themed dinner parties to bring people together for food and fun!