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Class of 2024 Graduate Profile: Rebecca Schmehl

March 21, 2024
HCOM graduate Rebecca Schmehl

Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Class of 2024 graduate Rebecca Schmehl grew up in Upstate New York and most recently lived in Southeast Ohio. She attended the University of Virginia before transferring to Ohio University to major in photojournalism. Later she received a master's degree in new media from Syracuse University.  

Q: What was your childhood like? Who were your inspirations? Was there anything critical that happened that brought you to this point in life?

Rebecca Schmehl: I worked as a photojournalist for newspapers after college, then later worked at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication as an associate professor/graduate director. With so much time talking with students over the years about reaching their career goals, I began to think about what fulfilled me the most. I had done a number of stories over the years involving health care, such as community health initiatives, individual health journeys, etc. Reflecting on that, I knew I wanted to be the person doing that instead of watching people do it.  

What led you to medical school?

I had not taken science classes since high school, so began with a chemistry class across the hall that was offered during my lunch. I loved it. So I took the next course, and the next course. Over about 3.5 years while working, I got done the prereqs for medical school. The decision was more like a slow ramp of lots of discussions at home, and my family and I decided to take the leap. 

What was the most impactful experience you had while in medical school?

In my first year of medical school, my middle child made me a homemade notebook for Mother's Day of stapled together printer paper. She carefully decorated the front with "For a Medical and Hard Worker: I know you need a lot of blank paper to do your medical work, so I made you this notepad to make it easier. You can do it!" She asks every now and then if I've used it, but I'm just saving it. It means a lot that my three kids are on this road with me, and are excited about it. 

What was the most important lesson you learned while in medical school?

There's some guilt wrapped up in the excitement of having a family, changing jobs, moving, and pursuing a career in medicine. Often I feel like I'm never giving enough to the different aspects. When studying or on rotations, I miss home. When home, there's always more studying to do. So I work on being present in what I'm doing, and knowing that work-life balance is more like a pendulum than a scale. 

Were you involved in research? If so, could you share more about what you worked on?

One research project that had a great impact on me was returning to a rural Maasai community in Kenya that abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting as a rite of passage that I had followed over the years as a photojournalist. I went back to see if the change had lasted, how it was maintained and how it impacted the community. The community has abandoned the practice, the first girl graduated college with more to follow. It showed me how a health initiative with community buy-in can shift an entire generation.

What are you most excited about for your future?

I'm excited for the upcoming journey into residency in general surgery at Christiana Care, taking the next step in learning and patient care. 

Who has helped you along the way? Is there anyone you want to recognize?

Hands down my husband, Phil. He has been a partner and friend on this journey, and has sacrificed so much and wears that so lightly. He changed his career so I could pursue medicine, moved and works for a non-profit helping disadvantaged high school students. Now we are moving again. He makes sure our three kids get to where they need to go, packs their lunches in the morning and tucks them in every night. And throughout he has this positive "We can do this" attitude, even when mine falters. Phil is the glue that holds our family together.

How do you like to spend your free time?

With my husband, three kids and our dog, going to lacrosse/soccer/swimming, music lessons, traveling and being together.

What didn’t I ask that you’d like to share?

It has been a great honor to be on this path with the amazing people around me at OU-HCOM.