Graduating Rutgers–Camden Biology Student Aims to Become a Doctor Like Those Who Treated Her

Peyton Conrey

Peyton Conrey

By Jeanne Leong

“My health hurdles do not define me,” says Peyton Conrey, a premed student who graduated from Rutgers–Camden with honors on May 16.

When she was 6 years old, she often had health issues that required hospitalizations and trips to the hospital emergency department. Finally diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, she had heart surgery to repair the defect.

A competitive rower in high school, Conrey planned to attend Bucknell University on a rowing scholarship, but her plans changed after her doctors discovered that she had an undiagnosed concussion from a forceful collision with another player during a field hockey match three years earlier, when she was in middle school. At the time, she had surgery for facial fractures, but none of her doctors knew that she had suffered a concussion.

“In retrospect, all the signs were there—daily headaches, dizziness, memory loss, and lack of balance,” says Conrey. “Thankfully, due to lots of research and awareness, we know so much more today about concussion and mild traumatic brain injury than we did back then.”

After the concussion diagnosis, she spent three years—from her junior year of high school through her first year of college—being treated by a concussion specialist from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Concussion Program. Every two weeks, for three years, her parents drove her from their home in Moorestown to Pittsburgh for doctor visits. After her treatment was completed, she continued her recovery with physical therapy three times a week with a concussion specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Through all of her health issues, Conrey didn’t allow anything to get in the way of what she aspires to do, whether it involves her education, participating in sports, or doing community service.

“My challenges have only made me stronger and shaped me into the woman I am today,” says Conrey, a biology major. “I am thankful for the wonderful opportunities I have had for incredible internships, an opportunity to learn here at Rutgers in a fantastic science-oriented environment with outstanding professors, and students who have become my lifelong friends.”

While attending Rutgers–Camden, she volunteered to teach math to eighth-graders on Saturdays as part of the TeenSHARP program that works to bridge the education gap of underrepresented students and their access to college.

Outside of the classroom, she had an internship in the orthopedic surgery division at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she had the opportunity to observe surgeries and follow up with patients. “I was able to see the power of medicine and how it directly impacts a person’s quality of life,” says Conrey. “Seeing a young girl who had been dependent on a walker be able to walk independently after one surgery was incredible.”

A part-time job as a medical scribe in the cardiology department of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden gave her the opportunity to see doctors in action as they interacted with patients. By taking notes while the doctor interviewed a patient, she was able to learn more medical terminology and see how doctors communicate effectively with patients. “Medical scribes give the physician more time to listen and observe the patient, which is the most important aspect of care,” says Conrey. “I was able to observe how trust is developed with a patient and what it takes to be a good physician.”

Conrey chose to attend Rutgers–Camden to stay close to home, and the university suited her perfectly.

“From my professors to my awesome academic advisors to my fellow students, I have had such a positive experience at Rutgers–Camden,” Conrey says.

She found that one of the benefits of a small campus is the tight-knit campus community, making it easy for her to connect with her professors and make friends. The opportunity to perform community service work gave her experience that she says enhanced and enriched what she was learning in the classroom.

Through her participation in the Rutgers chapter of the American Medical Students Association (AMSA), she was introduced to the MEDLIFE program that took her and other premed students from across the United States to Peru to provide health care in impoverished communities.

Conrey plans to spend a year doing research work at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and traveling to another country on a medical mission trip before attending medical school.

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