Spring 2013
Student Spotlight

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Shaye Lewis

Shaye Lewis has the full support of her family as she works her way through medical school. Photo by Matt Lush.

Mom of six balances family, student roles

Shaye Lewis of Fallon, Nev., graduated Nevada State College in 2011 with a degree in psychology before being accepted to medical school.

Synapse: What made you decide upon a career in medicine in Nevada?

Lewis: I always wanted a career in medicine, but did not know until a few years ago that there was a medical school in Nevada. I had given up on my dream-I didn't think that I could uproot my family and move across the country. I was excited to find out that I might still be able to achieve my dreams! I met with (education outreach coordinator) Gina Sella, who told me about other mothers who had attended here and encouraged me to apply. I loved the smaller class size here-I didn't want to be just a number. The more I researched, the more I felt this could be a perfect fit.

Synapse: Talk about the factors that contributed to your returning to medical school as a ‘nontraditional student.'

Lewis: I wanted to be sure that my family was supportive before I started applying. Talking with each one, I told them what they might expect and asked what they thought about my going to medical school. One daughter told me that she would be upset if I didn't follow my dreams. My husband has been amazing. I was a stay-at-home mom and the secretary for our businesses; he has had to step in and fulfill these roles himself or hire outside help. My family moved to Reno last year-with little complaining! Knowing that my family supports what I am doing motivates me to work harder.

Synapse: Describe the hospice volunteer work you've done.

Lewis: I began volunteering with hospice as an undergraduate. My time with hospice patients taught me the importance of being present and the power of physical touch. Often my task was just to be with the patient-one loved to watch Tiger Woods play, so we played cards and watched a lot of golf. Sometimes I was the only person willing to talk with the patient about their impending death because the subject was too difficult for family and friends. One man I visited was dying, unconscious, and in some distress. He lived alone with no family members nearby or even anyone to notify of his death. I simply held his hand and his breathing became a little less labored and his body relaxed. I hope that I was able to make his passing easier.

Synapse: How do you balance medical school with your role as a mother?

Lewis: As a mother of six, there are times (finals) when my family gets neglected a little, but I make an effort to communicate with my children and spend time with my husband. My kids often do their homework in the same room I study in and this strengthens our relationship. They have to learn to do things for themselves, but these experiences will be good preparation for adult life.

Synapse: Where do you see yourself professionally in 2025?

Lewis: My children will be grown, so I hope for the freedom to serve health service missions for our church or with an organization like Doctors Without Borders. It would be interesting to go back to Ethiopia where my son is from.