Hannah Verrette, '18

November 21, 2016
Junior blends biology and religious studies

By: Timaj Yusuf, '18

Over the summer, junior Hannah Verrette, ’18, had the opportunity to job shadow alumnus Dr. Dylan Tierney, ’95, at his job as an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, through the Office of Alumni & Career Services’ Spider Shadowing program.

This program connects students with opportunities to participate in half- or full-day job shadowing experiences during winter and summer breaks. Job shadowing is an impactful way to learn about an industry, career path, or specific organization through direct exposure to the people, day-to-day work, and culture of a job.

Verrette came to Richmond with her heart set on pursuing medicine. Immediately, she knew she wanted to major in biology because of the opportunities it could provide her for a future in the medical field. However, her plans changed once she began to take classes related to religion and spirituality.

Since Richmond stresses the value of interdisciplinary learning, after taking these courses, Verrette began to think about alternatives to majoring in biology. She created her own interdisciplinary major, Biology and Religion as Healing Modalities, which blends biology and religious studies.

Once on that path, Verrette eliminated the idea of medical school due to her passion for alternative medicine, but during the shadowing experience, Dr. Tierney changed her perspective on physicians. She learned more about healthcare on a global scale and was able to see the influence that physicians can have on their patients.

“Many people have preconceived notions about what it means to be a doctor, and may not know how broad the profession can be. In my job you can really impact policy around caring for the poorest and the sickest patients,” Tierney said. “It’s not just one patient that you're treating. I expand the scope to think about how social forces impact health and then try to influence those social forces to lessen disease for the underserved.”

“I was open with Dr. Tierney about my interdisciplinary studies major, and how I’m interested in alternative and complimentary types of healing,” says Verrette. “He was very encouraging, and gave me so many ideas and resources to help me pursue it through the scope of medicine.”

Verrette advises students to reach out to Career Services and embrace new paths. “Take advantage of the opportunities that Richmond gives, and always be open to ones that may not directly align with your plan. Every opportunity is a chance to learn something and take something away from it, negative or positive. In my case, it turned out for the better!”