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Valerie A. Pierre

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Valerie was inspired to help others by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the support of her parents.

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Valerie A. Pierre

Undergraduate: Xavier University of Louisiana, 2009
Major: Biology, double minor in Chemistry and French
Medical school: Creighton University School of Medicine, 2017

What led to your interest in medicine? What made you decide to go to medical school?

Growing up as an athlete who played soccer, I had dreams of becoming a sports medicine physician and opening up my own health and wellness spa. I also loved going to the doctor’s office and had great relationships with all of my physicians. So as I got older, naturally I thought that I would become a physician, too.

However, I would say that I definitively decided to pursue a career in medicine during the beginning of my freshman year of college in New Orleans. At the time, Hurricane Katrina had left its devastating effects on the city, and I vividly remember being on the I-10 bridge in the aftermath of the storm with some of my classmates. I saw widespread suffering all around me and it really bothered me that there was nothing that I could do to help the others who were in much worse conditions than me.

After that life-changing experience, I made a vow to myself, that no matter what, I was going to go to medical school one day and devote my life and career to alleviating the suffering of others.

Who or what inspired you?

My family—especially my parents—have always and continue to be one of my biggest sources of inspiration. They have a very strong work ethic and have overcome a lot as immigrants to the U.S. I like to joke that I grew up in a “typical strict West Indian household.” But, honestly, my parents love hard, support me tremendously, and always push me to expect more from myself. Even when I begin to doubt myself and my abilities, my parents never let me buy into that mentality.

I remember at the American Medical Education Conference in 2008 in NYC, Dr. Barbara Ross Lee said, “Every story has its successes and failures, its obstacles and triumphs,” and honestly, my parents have been there (and continue to be there) through all of mine.

Was there one person who stands above the others as your inspiration to go to medical school?

In the summer of 2007, I participated in the Summer Medical and Dental Enrichment Program at the University of Virginia. It was a great experience and I gained a lifelong mentor (and friend) in medicine from the program. She pushed me and met with me often throughout the years to go over my CV, personal statement, and transcripts, and told me what I needed to tighten up and improve upon to successfully gain entrance into medical school. Since I have been in medical school, she has continued to be a voice of reason, offer support, and let me know that though the road may be long and difficult, I am going to be an awesome physician.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?

I am really big on self-care and try to get about eight hours of sleep each night and exercise as often as possible. I stay spiritually connected by praying, reading my bible, listening to gospel music, and going to church, which is important for me, too. I also like to watch television, try new restaurants, and travel as much as possible. Finally, I talk to my family daily, and I try and travel home on all of my extended breaks from school.

And when I am not doing any of the above, you can usually find me studying.

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?

If a career in medicine is something that you really want—do not give up! I have had numerous stumbling blocks, but I honestly feel like I have been called to do this, and I know that I have become stronger by everything that I have had to go through.

Surround yourself with positive people. Be proactive. Find mentors. Attend conferences, find doctors to shadow, and reach out to people who are where you want to be in life and ask them how they got there.

If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell him/her, off the top of your head?

Shadow various physicians and talk to them about their lives. Read medical journals and blogs to find out what is going on in medicine and find out how current physicians feel about these future changes. Join medical societies as a pre-medical member so you can attend their conferences and be surrounded by medical students and physicians who share your interests.

Also, I would recommend taking time off before medical school. The time that I took off before attending medical school allowed me to pursue other interests such as international travel, teaching, and working in various medical fields. I think that it also helps to make you a more well-rounded person.

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