NASHVILLE, Tenn. Anastasia Wright wants to travel. She wants to visit other communities, other regions, even other countries as she pursues a career in global health. She hopes to make an impact wherever she goes, but she’s also quick to note that she wants to learn from every place she visits.
In short, referencing a well-known science fiction series, she says, “I want to be my own Doctor Who.”
‘The happiest place on earth’
Wright graduated from St. Elizabeth Academy in St. Louis, MO. It was an all girls school that has since closed its doors. When recalling this fact, she couldn’t help but feel sad.
“For me, it was the happiest place on earth,” she said. “I transferred there halfway through high school from Rosati-Kain High – another all girls school – and what I found were extremely loving and caring teachers, a diverse student body, a loving environment. It felt like a family.”
Wright journeyed south to attend Xavier University of Louisiana, where she began studying Chemistry and Pre-Med.
She altered course just before graduation, however, when she changed her major to French. “Much to the fear of my parents,” she laughed.
It was all a French professor’s fault, of course. According to Wright, Dr. Susan Spillman enticed numerous Pre-Med students with the idea of global health, and she couldn’t help being intrigued.
She started taking public health courses during her senior year, and ultimately graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French. Then, she headed north again to attend Meharry Medical College (MMC).
Merging two passions
Now, Wright is studying Public Health and working with the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) Community Engagement pillar, assisting with the Faith and Health Collaborative and Community Health Workers.
“In my externship class, I had the opportunity to talk to MVA Program Manager Jacquelyn S. Favours, MPH, CPH, CHES when she came to talk about the MVA,” Wright said. “She talked about working within faith and health. I’m Catholic, and campus ministry was a big part of my education. So the opportunity to merge those two passions intrigued me.”
She hopes to accomplish practical goals in those areas and learn as much as possible about Community Engagement.
‘The medical side of things’
Healthcare was almost a foregone conclusion for Wright. Her mother is a physician, which meant she grew up on – as she puts it – “the medical side of things.”
“I was always in her office,” she recalled. “I worked there in high school. One of my favorite books – My Sister’s Keeper – is about a little girl with cancer, so I thought I wanted to be a Pediatric Oncologist.”
Even though that career didn’t pan out, she still had a passion for public health. “When I discovered the medical path wasn’t for me, I still wanted to make an impact in under-served communities,” she said.
Always something to learn
Much like the intergalactic traveling hero of Doctor Who – aptly named the Doctor – Wright wants to utilize her education to travel and make a positive impact on the world. At the same time, she wants to be open and welcoming to new ideas and possibilities.
“One of my professors at Xavier, Dr. Tyra Gross, said we look at other countries and think, ‘How can we fix you?’ rather than ‘How can we learn from you?’” she said. “I want to help, but I also want to take what I learn from them to my own community.”
As the Doctor once said, “There’s always something to look at if you open your eyes.”
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.