‘Passion for Service’ Working with Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee has made Hannah Witherell '20 determined to continue helping others after she leaves W&L.
“My work with Campus Kitchen has confirmed my passion for service and my desire to pursue a career that continues to allow me to make a difference.”
~ Hannah Witherell ’20
What are you majoring/minoring in?
I am working towards a B.S. in cognitive and behavioral science and following a pre-physician assistant (PA) track. I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in health care. While discussing my options for becoming a health care provider, I learned that the PA profession was originally designed to tackle a shortage of primary care physicians. Thus, the profession aligns well with my passion for service and desire to improve the availability and quality of health care. As I explored the profession further, I realized that it was exactly what I had been searching for – the profession follows the medical model, emphasizes teamwork and offers the possibility for lateral mobility in specialization and work-family balance.
What are your favorite classes/areas of interest?
My favorite course I have taken was Brain and Behavior, in which I learned about the physiological bases of sensation, learning and memory, motivation, cognition and abnormal behavior. I took this course during my first semester and it jump-started my interest in cognitive and behavioral science and its applications to medicine. I then served as the teaching assistant for the lab for two semesters.
I am currently taking an advanced methods course in psychophysiology. Within this course, I am researching the relationship between interoception (the sense of the internal state of the body), pain tolerance and pain perception. This course permits an incredible amount of autonomy in terms of proposal of my topic, writing of the experiment protocol, and interpreting the data, which has been challenging, but also rewarding and exciting. I am also looking forward to completing my capstone. For this, I will intern with Rockbridge Area Health Center!
Tell us about your work with Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee. What other activities are you involved in?
I have been an executive leadership team member of Campus Kitchen since my first year at Washington and Lee, and I have served as the president since my junior year. In my work with Campus Kitchen, most of my time is dedicated to the Backpack Program, which focuses on diminishing the meal gap experienced on the weekends by students eligible for free or reduced lunch. My work with Campus Kitchen has confirmed my passion for service and my desire to pursue a career that continues to allow me to make a difference.
Following my sophomore year, I worked in the lab of Dr. William Schreiber as a summer research scholar studying habituation learning in invertebrates. For the past year, I have been a research student in the lab of Dr. Ryan Brindle, where we are studying the effects of mental stress on health and disease.
To share my passion for service and health care and be part of a team that introduces incoming students to the university, I have led the Volunteer Venture trip to Richmond, Virginia, for the past three years. That trip focuses on poverty and health care. This past summer, I worked as a stand-by EMT-B for a hockey rink, and this year, I am volunteering for the Lexington Fire and Rescue Department to develop my clinical skills.
What are your goals post-college in general?
I plan to take a gap year following graduation to continue to gain clinical experience and further develop my understanding of the role of PAs, then I will apply to PA school.
Witherell was also recently awarded the David G. Elmes Pathfinder Prize in Psychology. Read more about that honor.