Distinguished alumnae reflect on GW experiences

Media Credit: Lillian Bautista | Senior Photo Editor

Duckworth said she found her “calling” at GW when her classmates encouraged her to take ROTC classes while she was pursuing her master’s degree at the Elliott School.

Alumnae discussed how their GW experiences influenced their careers in politics, medicine and public health during a panel event Thursday.

Roslyn Brock, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Lt. Gen. Nadja West served as the three panel speakers, discussing how their time as students created lasting memories that they’ve carried deep into their careers. Frank Sesno, the director of strategic initiatives for the School of Media and Public Affairs, moderated the panel, which is part of a broader array of events that officials have held this year to celebrate GW’s bicentennial.

Brock, an alumna from the Milken Institute School of Public Health and a member of the Board of Trustees, said leveraging her master’s of health administration thesis on health outreach programs for minorities served as an “only at GW moment” because she helped develop health policies for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as an undergraduate student. Brock said she also joined the NAACP Board of Directors as a student and continues to serve on the board today.

“While I was at GW, I was able to leverage that relationship so much so that the NAACP included health care as a civil rights issue in its national constitution, and I owe that to the work and to the faculty members at GW who exposed me to policy and the vision possible,” Brock said.

Duckworth, an alumna of the Elliott School of International Affairs, said she found her “calling” at GW when her classmates encouraged her to take ROTC classes while she was pursuing her master’s degree at the Elliott School. That encouragement led her to 23 years of service in the U.S. Army, she said.

“I fell in love with the army like no one ever fell in love with the army, before because it was a pure meritocracy,” she said. “It didn’t matter that I was this little half Asian girl, it only mattered if I was willing to shoot straight.”

Lt. Gen. Nadja West, an alumna of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said she remembers how her patients at the GW Hospital were patient and “entrusted themselves” to her as a graduate student while she asked them questions and performed procedures to better improve her skills as a doctor.

Officials recently announced that Duckworth and West are inaugural recipients of GW’s Monumental Alumni Award, which recognizes alumni who have impacted the world through their work and service.

West said Jehan El-Bayoumi, the founding director of the Rodham Institute at SMHS, served as an internal medicine resident when West attended GW and acted as a “phenomenal” teacher, leaving a lasting impact on West’s career and practice as a physician.

“I’ll never forget in the emergency room she sat near a patient and gently held her hand, this elderly woman, clearly not of means, but she treated her like royalty,” West said. “She held her hand, explained what was going on with such respect that I said, ‘I want to be like her when I become a doctor.’”

 

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