Grace began her Penn education as a biology major with a love for writing and community-building, and the interdisciplinary nature of the University has allowed her to cultivate each of her unique passions without compromise. She is now on the pre-med track within the Health and Societies major, while also pursuing a minor in journalism, and aims to center her career goals and research on health equity and communications in addition to medical anthropology. “I am really drawn to how people connect with each other,” Grace says, “as well as very interested in health communications and being able to educate communities about their health.” Acknowledging the disparity in equitable access to healthcare, Grace hopes to elevate the stories of people with little to no access—often those from low-income communities or communities of color—and help them more easily navigate the healthcare system.
Through her extracurricular involvement, Grace is already utilizing her education and innate skills to benefit the greater community that exists beyond campus. As a shift leader for the Shelter Health Outreach Program (SHOP), a student-run volunteer organization at the University, she and her team serve members of the Philadelphia houseless population by providing blood pressure screenings and facilitating access to a free clinic for those without health insurance. SHOP’s reach continues to grow, and the organization partners with 13 different shelters and churches to provide vital services in West and North Philadelphia, Center City near Chinatown, and Independence Hall. Grace has also contributed to various research projects with professors and PhD candidates on a diverse range of topics, including heath equity and the dynamics of interracial relationships.
Grace’s responsibilities shifted dramatically during the summer before her junior year, when her father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. As the only one of her siblings close enough to offer consistent support, she coordinated much of her father’s care, and experienced firsthand the level of compassionate expertise offered by the Penn Medicine health system. Learning to navigate her father’s diagnosis while balancing her coursework was especially challenging, and there came a time when Grace questioned whether she would be able to continue her education. Fortunately, through the University Life Fund, Penn was able to meet Grace’s shifting financial needs, allowing her to stay enrolled and still also focused on her father’s continued treatment and healing.
“This experience with my dad has opened my eyes to all the resources the University has to offer. I had to figure out whether I could afford to continue at Penn, whether I had to shift my course load, and whether I would be able to graduate on time. I am so grateful I was able to rely on student intervention services to help me facilitate conversations and ensure my voice was heard—and really excited to be able to continue my journey on campus.”