What turned you on to science, Memorie?
I remember attending a Howard Hughes Science Camp when I was in grade school and dissecting a shark—I thought it was really cool, and this experience further fueled my interest in science.
You have a Physician Assistant degree from Cornell Medical School and are now pursuing a Ph.D. in Nutrition and Health Science. What got you interested in those particular fields of study?
I have always been interested in health and wellness, but after working a few years as a Physician Assistant, I began to notice the chasm that exists between the medical field and the field of nutrition. I also noticed the emphasis that the medical field places on treatment with medication and surgery instead of prevention with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. This prompted my interest in my nutrition and inspired me to find strategies to better integrate the fields of medicine and nutrition.
Favorite and/or most challenging courses you’ve taken so far to prepare for your degree? Why?
There are two courses that were both challenging yet fascinating! One was my anatomy class in Physician Assistant School. It was fast paced, and it included a cadaver dissection lab, which was intense. The other was during my first year of my doctoral work when I took Nutritional Biochemistry. It was a challenging course, but it was amazing to learn how macronutrients and micronutrients are metabolized and utilized for so many processes and functions in our body!
You currently cheer for the (WNBA) Atlanta Shooting Stars and the Georgia Force (Arena Football League). How long have or did you cheer for them, and why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I cheered one season for Georgia Force, and I am currently in my rookie season for the Atlanta Dream Shooting Stars. I have always loved dancing and performing, and Atlanta has some great professional teams. I wanted to challenge myself to become a better dancer and performer, and I also wanted to be more involved in the Atlanta community, so I decided to audition to become a professional cheerleader!
Which came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
This is a tough question! I guess I was most interested in cheerleading and dancing first. I started taking dance when I was four years old and used to hop around my house making up my own cheers as a small child!
What’s a day on the job like for you?
In my current position, I mostly help patients lose weight and improve other aspects of their health through lifestyle changes, such as nutrition and exercise. I encourage my patients to eat healthily and stay physically active and I suggest certain changes to what they are eating so that they can feel better!
What does it mean for you to be a physician assistant?
I feel that my role as a Physician Assistant is very important. As healthcare is changing and doctors have less and less time to actually spend with their patients due to paper work, insurance companies, etc., I have the unique opportunity to spend more time with my patients to listen to and support them. I also feel my particular role is important as I am trying to prevent and treat chronic medical conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol with diet and exercise.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your science studies and career?
As a cheerleader, I am encouraging, happy, and positive, and I strive to stay healthy and physically fit. This helps me in my role as a Physician Assistant since I am constantly encouraging and motivating my patients to choose healthier dietary and exercise habits. As a cheerleader, I also have to be disciplined in order to stay in shape, keep up with a busy schedule, and learn all of our routines. This discipline translates over into my doctoral studies where I also have to stay disciplined in order to complete assignments and my dissertation!
Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or scientists]? How did you handle it?
I do feel that breaking stereotypes about cheerleaders are important. Occasionally I find myself hesitant to reveal the fact that I am a cheerleader when I am around other professional colleagues or graduate students because I feel they may view me differently. However, it is important for me to show that cheerleaders are intelligent, driven, disciplined women.
Best cheerleading experience?
I don’t think there has been just one. For me, I think best part of being involved in the professional cheerleading world has been meeting, working with, and dancing with some of the most amazing and inspiring women that I may have never met otherwise.
Best science-related experience?
One of my favorite science-related experiences was being able to hear Dr. T. Colin Campbell speak at an informal presentation and Q & A before a screening of the movie Forks Over Knives. Dr. Campbell is a leader in nutrition research, and his book, The China Study, was part of my motivation for adopting a vegan, plant-based diet. So, it was really exciting to see and hear him speak in person!
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self? Dream big and think outside the box! With hard work, anything is possible!
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I am vegan and follow a plant-based diet!
Apart from work and cheering, what are some of your favorite activities?
If I’m not cheering or working, you can usually find me in a dance class. I love hiking in the North Georgia mountains, and I love walking or riding my bike along the Beltline in Atlanta. I also love cooking and trying new vegan recipes (although some don’t turn out so great!).
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to continue to dance and cheer for as long as possible while encouraging and helping others to adopt a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I want to be an example of an intelligent and extremely hard-working cheerleader. I would also like to be a role model for young girls and other women, showing them that it is possible to have a successful career in science while at the same time following their other passions, such as cheerleading and dancing.