Discovering Success in Academics and Career at Rush

Danesha Lewis, MS, who researches COVID-19 vaccine mistrust among the African American community through the health sciences PhD program, credits her experience at Rush with helping build the habits for success
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Danesha Lewis, MS, is a medical student education coordinator at Rush Medical College and a PhD student at the College of Health Sciences.

As a part of the Health Sciences PhD program, Lewis’s area of research encompasses health disparities and mistrust in the health care system among the African American community. Through her studies, Lewis hopes to increase medication adherence and overall wellness in African American patients battling cardiovascular illnesses.

Lewis first came to Rush in 2013 as a temporary employee after completing her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences at Northern Illinois University. She left briefly to pursue a Master's in Health Administration and later returned to Rush for her second master's degree in Biotechnology, which she completed in 2018. She was then hired for her current role in the medical college and decided to continue to further her higher education journey simultaneously in the PhD program.

Lewis chose Rush University to complete her PhD because of the breadth of research the College of Health Sciences program allowed her to pursue. As someone who loves having options in life, Lewis stated that having the choice of laboratory or community research was one of the key aspects of the program that appealed to her.

“I love that it is a health science degree formulated for a working professional,” she said. “The program is flexible and operates on your own time.”

Lewis’s experiences as a Rush graduate student have allowed her to help other graduate-level students like her to the best of her abilities. In her current position at Rush Medical College, she coordinates the curriculum for first- and second-year medical students. She also acts as a liaison between faculty and students.

“Rush was a steppingstone for my career,” she said. “The support I received helped me create the habits I needed for success. No matter what field my classmates planned on going into, whether it was graduate or professional school or going into the industry, we all had opportunities to do research and engage with others.”

Lewis attributes her success at Rush to developing good time management and consistent schedules. As COVID-19 continues to impact hospitals across the country, she states that making room for downtime is a vital part of staying healthy during this difficult period.

“The pandemic gave me direction in my area of research,” she said. “I’m studying the community’s hesitancy towards COVID-19 and the vaccine as the situation progresses, and I’m hoping to alleviate stress about the disease whenever I can.”

Lewis has also participated in many extracurriculars at Rush, including the COVID-19 Journal Club, Graduate Student Council and Governors Breakfast. She was also a manager of the commencement choir. She is also a founder of the Minority White Coat Foundation, which works to increase the number of minorities in various health care disciplines around the United States through mentorship, scholarships, guidance, and seminars.

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