Next up in our SHE Serves series is second year medical student, and United States Naval Officer Stephanie Peterson. Stephanie is from the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in Knoxville, Tennessee. Aside from studying her life away, she enjoys weight lifting, board games, and hanging out with her sweet hunny Ryan, her dog Beans and their spunky cats Mia and Loki!
Name: Stephanie Peterson
Company: USN and Lincoln Memorial University Debusk College of Medicine
Industry: Physician – Hopefully future General Surgeon
Who are you, where are you from, what do you do? How do you serve your community?
I am a United States Naval Officer and a second year medical student. I plan to serve as a General Surgeon for the USN and provide care to active duty sailors and marines.
What inspired you to a position of service? What was your path there?
Since I was a little girl I always wanted to become a doctor like my dad. It took me a while to find the confidence I needed to get to where I am now. I had a lot of set backs and even some discouraging people in my life that tried to derail me. Honestly, without them I might not have made it here. I like to be as stubborn as possible and take the hardest route available to me ☺. But in all seriousness, these challenges I have faced, I would not ask for them to be removed.
Challenges made me a hell of a lot stronger than I ever imagined I could be.
Becoming a doctor was always on my mind, to me it is the height of intelligence as well as the most I can give back to the world I live in. Which brings me to the military…
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of aiding a group of older gentlemen at the VA. They all suffered from PTSD and were trying to face the struggles they had incurred since returning from the Vietnam war. I would sit with them for three hours each week, and they would discuss, or rather rant and rave about their treatment and experiences. I couldn’t blame any one of them. If I was in their shoes, I would be just as upset. Rejection in any form is a hard thing to manage in one’s heart, and here they were years later with feelings still as strong as the day they returned home to banners, signs and voices disparaging them. The raw emotion of it all made me love each and every one of these guys. I realized that this was a small sampling of the greater issue at hand.
Each day men and women are sacrificing for us, and they don’t receive much in return. Eye opening as this is and was, I decided I would do whatever I needed to make sure they were taken care of.
What about serving others brings you the most joy? What’s most challenging part of serving others?
Most people are extremely grateful. Just being kind while listening to their story is all they really are asking for. I am inspired by these people and it brings me joy to know that I am serving the individuals who give all for you and me. The challenging part is leaving work at work. Healthcare in any facet is not a 9 to 5 job, but for the sake of your family you have to leave the pain and the bad days at work. The opposite is also true, patients do not care if you’re sick or sad. They need you, and they need all of you.
What obstacles have you faced, internal or societal, in your pursuit of service?
The biggest one would be my own self-image. I spent a lot of my early twenties questioning my worth. I never stood up for myself, I let people talk down to me and tell me who I was, it’s something that still rears its ugly head in my life. Another would be the people who doubted me. This ties into my self-esteem, because I let people tell me who I could be. Physicians I didn’t know told me negative things about the field, pointing particularly at my gender and questioning if it was the right path for me, a woman.
People I considered friends told me I was giving too much up, that I wouldn’t be a good mother or a wife if I decided to pursue my dreams.
I dated shallow men (really boys) who were uncomfortable dating a future doctor let alone a woman who intended to become an officer.
What advice would you give SHEs considering a career path that involves serving others?
I would encourage all of them to do so.
As women we are nurturing yet fierce, I like to think of us as Amazon women with these amazing powers of good will.
Any woman who wants to dedicate herself to serving others is giving herself over to a life of fulfillment. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, sacrifices must be made so don’t go into it blindly, do your research and ask questions.
If you could go back in time and offer yourself sixty seconds of advice, what would you say?
Ignore the people who didn’t have your back. Be strong, stand up for yourself and others. You will love yourself more because of it.