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Success Stories

Engineering a Path to Medicine

Posted on June 27, 2014

Picture of Alexandria Ritchie

Alexandria “Alex” Ritchie knows what she wants to do. She wants to earn an associate degree in engineering at John Tyler, to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University to continue studying biomedical engineering, and to apply to medical school so she can become a pediatric physician. This is not just a well-thought-out career pathway for Ritchie – it’s a personal journey.  When she was 13, her parents sat her down and told her about a sibling she had never known – one who had suffered from a chromosome deficiency. The story ignited a spark in Richie, and driven by the desire to help others, she put together a strategy for her education. At first, a two-year degree from John Tyler was not in her plan, but a change in finances prompted her to enroll in the College’s Engineering program. “It ended up being a good thing,” Ritchie said. “I like how invested the faculty and staff are in the students here, and there are internship and scholarship opportunities.”

One of those opportunities presented itself when she became one of only 40 community and junior college students from across the nation to be selected to travel to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center as part of the National Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) project. While at the center, she had the opportunity to meet NASA engineers, to learn more about careers in science and engineering, and to participate in a competition to build a prototype Mars rover. “It wasn’t related to medicine,” Ritchie said. “But, it allowed me to see engineering in action and to meet people and find out how they used their engineering degrees. It also taught me how to think like an engineer – how to problem-solve and approach situations from different angles.”

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