From Accountant to Doctor

September 28, 2022
Emily Dunbar, '16, followed a road less traveled to pursue her passion.

Emily Dunbar came to University of Richmond from Yehud, Israel, as a member of the women’s tennis team and a hopeful biology major. Soon after talking with her advisor and teammates, she realized the lab requirements would be too much to manage with the tennis team’s practice schedule so she changed paths and decided to pursue an accounting degree but never gave up on her passion for the medical field.  

During her sophomore year, Dunbar participated in a Living-Learning Program, The Business of Science, during which students traveled to the Dominican Republic to work with a local community on a health initiative combatting cervical cancer. “The program reignited my passion for medicine, so I decided to see for myself the feasibility of combining science classes and tennis,” she shared. 

Dunbar completed all the pre-med requirements while earning a B.S. in accounting and began work for EY after graduation, becoming a CPA shortly after. While at EY, she was never far from the medical field—volunteering at a hospital distributing toys and snacks to families on pediatric floors and helping with research initiatives at VCU, shadowing physicians to further explore the practice. 

After 18 months at EY, Dunbar realized she had to follow her heart. “I loved my colleagues and the company, but the work didn’t wake me up excited in the morning and I was envious of my colleagues who had that drive,” she shared. “I thought it made the most sense to dip my toes into the medical field before diving head first,” she shared. Dunbar became an EMT with the Richmond Ambulance Authority and found her missing piece. “I woke up both excited and terrified to go to work. It is still a rollercoaster I look back on with a smile.”

While working as an EMT, Dunbar was accepted to MCV but deferred a year to gain additional experience in a paramedic program. “It was the start of the pandemic which was then intensified by civil unrest over the summer,” Dunbar shared. “Serving as a first responder during that time was a true privilege. Though it was undoubtedly challenging, it taught me many lessons that helped me grow as a person and will shape my role as a physician.”

While she isn’t sure what specialty she will pursue, she is hopeful to stay for residency at VCU after graduation as her family is still active on UR’s campus. While at Richmond, Dunbar met her husband, Jacob, who is now a head coach with the UR tennis program. They recently welcomed their son, Kal-El, to the world.

Now in her third year of medical school, Dunbar has started clinical rotations and spends the majority of her time interacting with patients and physicians in the clinical setting. She frequently reflects on lessons learned through her accounting education and career that she passes on to those who will listen. “Accounting emphasized the importance of checks, balances, and controls,” she said. “As I see every day, not just in medicine, we humans make mistakes all the time. Building controls into systems to catch errors when they occur is a lot more effective than hoping that somehow, they can be completely avoided.”