Olivia Willis

Tronfeld West Durrett Attorneys with Case Stallings and Olivia Willis

Name: Olivia Willis

Currently Enrolled (2019): North Carolina State University

About Winning: 

“Thank you so much for this amazing award and honor. I am so grateful for this scholarship, as it allows me to relieve some of the financial burden placed on my parents and makes me feel as if I am directly contributing to the financing of my education. I plan to earn a bachelor’s degree in genetics with a minor in microbiology. Afterwards, my dream is to become a clinical geneticist or oncologist.”


Every time I pass a hospital, my heart flutters and the following thought races through my mind; “I can not wait to practice medicine”. Becoming a doctor has been my dream for as long as I can remember. Throughout high school, I have been working towards this dream and I am ecstatic to continue on this journey in college. I am on the path to achieving this goal through my hard work and passion, which I demonstrate by pursuing challenging educational opportunities and excelling academically.

I have had the opportunity to investigate my interests as a high school student through my elective science classes. Among these are AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and Human Genetics and Biotechnology. Through these classes, I have been able to participate in unique labs such as inserting bioluminescent genes in E. Coli bacteria and simulating DNA fingerprinting with polymerase chain reaction. My experiences in these classes inspired me to apply for a summer program in biotechnology at Wake Forest University during the summer of 2017. I was accepted into the program and spent a week in Winston-Salem, North Carolina studying nanotechnology, biomedical engineering, and regenerative medicine. Here, I was able to learn about different avenues of medicine such as gene therapy and stem cell treatments.

In the summer of 2018, I got a taste of my future career when I shadowed at RichmondENT, Virginia Commonwealth University hospital, and Midlothian Pediatric and Adolescent Health Partners. While observing doctors and nurses at these locations, I had a firsthand account of healthcare in practice and prepared myself for a future in medicine. My first shadowing experience was at RichmondENT with an otolaryngologist and facial plastic surgeon. For a week, I observed his outpatient consultations and surgeries such as tonsillectomies and sphenoid-ethmoidectomies. Next, I shadowed a pediatrician on several occasions, where I observed outpatient appointments and learned valuable patient care skills. In the latter half of the summer, I began shadowing an emergency medicine doctor at Virginia Commonwealth University hospital, who also invited me to collaborate on a research project in the Department of Toxicology. My task was to formulate a discussion section for a case report on naphthalene induced hemolysis. These opportunities cultivated my passion for medicine and biomedical research and gave me invaluable insight into my career aspirations.

The next chapter of my life will begin at North Carolina State University in the fall of 2019 where I plan to study human genetics with a pre-medical career track. NC State will provide me with opportunities such as undergraduate research with top faculty and internships in the Raleigh-Durham region. After graduating from NC State in 2023, I plan to move back to my hometown of Richmond in order to attend the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University. Here, I can finish my clinical observations in one of the same places I began them. Finally, my dream is to earn a residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where I can learn under some of the best doctors in the country while pursuing a specialty in genetics or oncology.

Achieving these goals will be challenging, as I face long nights studying for the medical college admission exam and the subsequent board certifications. Additionally, adjusting to college will present its own adversities, however, I am confident in my ability to overcome obstacles with resilience and tenacity. The hard work and initiative that I have shown in high school is indicative of my potential in college and beyond. While starting my career is at least a decade away, I know that getting there starts now. That is why this scholarship would be so momentous to me. With the ability to finance my undergraduate education, I will be better suited to take on the challenges of excelling academically and preparing for medical school.”