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Susan Wherley: Eliminating the stigma associated with women’s bodies

Ninety-nine medical students graduated from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine on Friday, May 26. Each student’s journey through medical school is unique. Here is Susan Wherley’s story. 

Susan Wherley did not consider medicine as a career path until her late high school years. She knew she wanted to work in international public health, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to go into medicine. The burnout, debt and stress associated with a career in medicine weighed heavily on her.

“My biggest challenge was convincing myself that medical school was a good idea,” said Wherley, who graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor of arts degree and Pennsylvania State University with a master’s degree in homeland security and public health preparedness. “It wasn’t until after college I felt for sure that the best way to contribute to improving the health landscape globally was by getting a medical degree.”

She knew medicine was her calling during her third year of medical school when she worked with James K. Horlacher, M.D., a clinical associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. “Not only did he display an immense amount of joy and empathy in serving others, he was one of the first physicians to treat me as an equal and allow me to participate actively in caring for the lives of women,” said Wherley, who is from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “Working with patients feels new, fun and rewarding every single day. I know I won’t tire of that joy, even on the hardest of days.”

The hardest part of medical school for Wherley was the challenge of navigating friendships with such limited free time because of all of the time she spent studying and learning in her clerkships at local hospitals. She missed weddings, birthdays and other big events of those close to her. “Relationships inevitably suffer when you are in medical school,” Wherley said. “While I am lucky to be surrounded by understanding friends, I constantly regretted not having more time and energy to devote to my loved ones. However, having their support was more than enough to keep me dedicated to the task at hand.”

During medical school, she was involved in several student organizations, including the American Medical Women’s Association, the Global Health Initiative, Medical School Student Council, Finding Meaning in Medicine and Medical Students for Choice. She has worked with a diverse group of physicians and patients in a variety of medical settings, including abroad in India and Cambodia. In Cambodia, Wherley volunteered in an HIV ward and worked with Prak Narom, M.D., one of the foremost HIV physicians in Southeast Asia. She learned a great deal about how HIV is managed in a resource-limited setting.

Wherley will begin a residency in obstetrics and gynecology this summer at Case Western/University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “Women’s health is my passion, and it is my goal to eliminate the stigma associated with women’s bodies,” said Wherley who also wants to treat women who suffer from health crises such as rape, trafficking and abuse and serve vulnerable populations in inner cities here and abroad. “As an obstetrician gynecologist, I want to be a physician who educates and strives to help patients feel free to discuss subjects that society has deemed taboo.” 

Last edited on 06/08/2017.