There Is No Speed Limit

I once thought I had my life figured out. At the time (14 years ago), I knew I’d be a physician. I had just been the valedictorian of my high school. I was sure that I’d graduate from college in 4 years, get into an elite medical school, have an incredible residency, and by now, be an attending physician in someone’s ER.

I was wrong about most of that.

Questioning Everything

I searched the world over a million times for the answers which took me to the lowest point of my life in January of 2019. I didn’t feel worthy or deserving of my life. I didn’t think I’d ever overcome life’s obstacles. Why me? I’d watched my grandfather go downhill very quickly, and a year or so later, my mother’s health began to deteriorate.

On top of that, my first job was a horrendous experience. Should I even be doing research? Am I even good at it?

And even worse, in my mind, I limped to the finish line of my master’s degree. Have I peaked? Am i smart enough?

A parade of guilt, shame, and disappointment began to follow me around everywhere I went. Why couldn’t I seem to escape this mental prison?

Something’s Gotta Give

So, I started to make changes in my life by seeking help for the depression and anxiety I was facing. That’s been the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but equally, the most important thing I’ve done. During that period, I continued to shop my resume and CV online hoping for any light. I wanted a new job with more duties. I couldn’t stay here forever.

A month after reaching my lowest point, I received a message from a Google recruiter. “This is a joke, right?” is all I could think, but it wasn’t. I had a phone interview, and although I didn’t get further in the process, my eyes began to open to the idea that maybe I could survive in this world. Maybe I have a real future after all?

By the summer of 2019, I had decided I’d apply to some Master’s and PhD programs. It was a time.

Why A PhD

At first, I only considered an additional Master’s degree. I didn’t think I wanted to be in school for 4 to 5 years. Truthfully, I wanted a PhD - the versatility of that degree and the ability to soak up knowledge under the guidance of an expert would be invaluable, but I was terrified by the process. I didn’t think anyone would write me a letter of recommendation, and I just knew that no good schools would be remotely interested.

Luckily, I was wrong again, but this time for all the right reasons. I applied to 3 schools, got 2 interviews (Baylor College of Medicine and UAB), 1 rejection, and 1 acceptance. UAB, here I come! I could not be more excited to start a new journey despite the pandemic. After all, my PhD will be in Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics. I hope I have the opportunity to contribute something helpful to the scientific community that ultimately makes the lives of others - especially those who experience the greatest disparities - better.

Couldn’t Do This Alone

As much as I’ve talked about myself in this process, I am nothing without my family and friends (who are my family). We are only as strong as those we surround ourselves with, and I’ve been lucky and blessed to be around some of the most thoughtful, honest, and loving people. My success is inextricably tied to my interactions with others and experiences with them. I’ve learned from others and grown with others throughout this. Additionally, I draw a tremendous amount of strength from my background and the communities my family is from and I grew up in.

To my family (Ma, Aunt Gerri, Aunt Jenell, Kara, Uncle Israel, Chad, Kenitra, Uncle Lloyd, Jeremy, Raven, Traven, Louis, Ryun, Henry, Loretta, Angela, Alma, Monica, Robert, Karen, Arthur, Kelvin, Carma, Keith, Deon, Kenneth, Reggie, Donna, Dejauna, Diane, Bobby Earl, Tevin, Jasmine, Chezlyn, and many more) and mentors/colleagues/friends (Dr. Eric Vallender, Dr. Simino, Xiao, Rob, Nana-Aisha, Tanya, Jessica, Chartis, William, Rita, Logan, LACES, Cameron, Kennedy, Emily, Steven, Jarred, Pauline, Cary, Zannel, Mario, Eric Pincus, Rick Mathes, Quentin, David Collins, Chris Laynes, Deshawn, Ricardo, Lagina, Amber, Pauline, Whitney, Ashley, Kaitlin, Michael Hicks, Steven Clark, Vaun, Quo Vadis, Brooks, Jason, Pete, Jesse, Tom, Tim, Coville, Max, Terence, Anna Roller, Austin, Gouri, Lavanya, and so many more), each of you has been an integral part of my journey. Thank you for everything!

If you’d like to contribute to my journey, check out my registry on Target’s website.

Hey, Ma

You are my world, and I love you.

Shaurita D. Hutchins

Shaurita D. Hutchins

Graduate Student Trainee

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