Meet Sydney, an aspiring doctor and current Carolina Hurricanes cheerleader in the NHL! Sydney earned her Bachelor’s in Molecular and Cellular Biology with
minors in Spanish and Psychology from Harvard University. She is now attending Duke School of Medicine while also cheering. Learn more about Sydney’s STEM and cheer background below!
Why did you choose to pursue a medical degree?
When I was 6 years old, I was very upset to learn that my grandma’s diabetes was not a condition that would be cured by the medicines she was taking, and it was a chronic condition she would always live with. Seeing the suffering it caused her, I told my parents I wanted to become a doctor when I was older and cure diabetes for my grandma. While 6-year-old me had no idea what diabetes was or the long road that it takes to become a physician, she was right about one thing: becoming a doctor meant that I would get to use the science I love every day to help people by relieving their suffering, improving their health, and increasing their quality of life. While I have faced bouts of self-doubt, my goal to become a physician and my motivation to help others using science has never wavered.
What does it mean to you to practice medicine?
I am so grateful to work in a STEM field! Becoming a physician means I get to use science every day to help people feel better and live longer. I am incredibly thankful for the hard work of STEM researchers who are constantly improving our understanding of disease and innovating
new treatments that makes the care I will deliver as a physician possible. In my career as a doctor, I hope to become an oncologic and reconstructive breast surgeon. This means I will help
people with breast cancer by removing the cancer and helping them look the way they want to afterward. While people of any gender can get breast cancer, it is certainly a disease that disproportionately affects women, which is part of the reason I aspire to work in this field. Caring for other women, helping them to be more comfortable and know that their physician appreciates their perspective, all while using cutting edge cancer science and surgery techniques, will be an incredibly meaningful way to spend my career.
Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
My mom put me in cheerleading at 5 years old because she saw how outgoing and confident I was at home when performing for my family. She thought cheerleading would help me, an otherwise shy kid, bring these traits out in my everyday life. She was right! I was so excited to start cheerleading because my older cousin was a cheerleader and I looked up to her immensely. This was the first of many strong female role models that cheerleading provided me.
How has cheerleading impacted you professionally?
Cheerleading has taught me so many valuable lessons that serve me well as a med student and that will continue to be important in my career as a physician! Being a team player is integral to being a cheerleader. Stunts wouldn’t go up without the contribution of every member of a stunt
group or without effective communication among all members of the stunt group. This is very similar to healthcare teams! They consist of people with a variety of backgrounds and roles, and the best outcome is achieved when all members communicate effectively with each other. Even more importantly, cheerleading has taught me what it means to be honored with the trust of another human being. I’ve spent time as both a flyer and a base, and when basing, I know that one of my
teammates trusts me to keep her safe. Similarly, I know when I am caring for a patient, they are trusting me through one of the most vulnerable experiences in their life.
What is your favorite memory as a student so far?
There was I had with a patient on the gynecologic oncology service. I was rounding with the rest of the team, and she told all the doctors that their demeanors were too serious, and it made her feel scared. She then turned to me and told me that I was the only person on the team who always smiled at her, which made her feel like she still had hope. Cheer is what
taught me to keep smiling even when things are scary, and I will keep that with me through my whole career!
What advice would you give your 12-year old self?
I would tell her to never doubt herself or listen to the people who tell her that her dreams are too big! I would tell her to stop trying to fit herself into a box and instead to embrace every single unique thing about her because there is no one “right” way to be a scientist, a cheerleader, or a woman!
Tell us a fun fact!
During medical school, I have discovered a love for musical theater! Duke Med puts on a musical every year that is based on a mainstream musical but is medical-themed. I have been involved with the show every year since I got to med school, originally joining because of my love for performing and dancing that comes from my cheer career. I have enjoyed being a part of the show so much that this year I am directing it! It just goes to show you that you never know where you cheer background might take you!