Brianna Lewis, May 2021 graduating senior

Class of 2021: Brianna Lewis

Honors College senior is ready for medical school and more

Brianna Lewis was voted “most likely to become a brain surgeon” in the first grade, and the Simpsonville, South Carolina-native will soon begin earning the “Dr.” portion of that prediction. She’s headed to medical school this fall after wrapping up four years in the Honors College and two bachelor’s degrees — one in biology and another in experimental psychology.

“I didn’t realize I was doing that much until I met with my adviser for a senior check-up, and she said, ‘You have enough for two degrees,’” Lewis says. “I was like, ‘Well, that’s news to me, but, OK, cool!’”

Lewis admits she has a habit of taking on a lot. In her four years at South Carolina, she’s played rugby, competed in the Miss Gamecock pageant and also completed a minor in Spanish and a cognate in chemistry. “I feel like everything the school has to offer has always been 100 percent top tier, and I wouldn't change my experience for the world,” she says.

The National Merit Finalist grew up a Clemson fan — that school was practically in her backyard — but attending her first South Carolina football game as a freshman quickly converted her to garnet and black. She learned the fight song and other Carolina traditions that day, “and it was just that moment of realizing that Carolina is a family — I literally almost cried.”

Freshman year wasn’t all fun and games, though. “It was an absolute roller coaster,” she recalls.  “I was always really smart in high school, and then I got to college and was like, ‘Oh, I never had to try to be smart before so I'm going to just continue the minimal effort.’ It smacked me — freshman year I had like a 2.5 GPA, and I was doing a lot of damage control to keep my scholarship.”

“I never went anywhere on spring break, but I remember just hanging out with friends on the Horseshoe, talking from 2 a.m. until the sun came up. That’s one of those memories that you’ll always have.

Brianna Lewis, May 2021 graduating senior

She righted the ship by committing more time to studying and along the way made friends with other pre-med and health science majors, many of whom she still hangs out and studies with today. “It's just been a process academically of figuring out what works for me so I can study and get to my goals,” she says.

In addition to beginning medical school, Lewis hopes to earn medical interpreter certification in Spanish. It’s a goal that would mesh well, she says, with becoming an emergency medicine physician.

“That’s something that’s really needed — we have a large Spanish-speaking population in South Carolina, so I feel like being a doctor who speaks Spanish, especially in a fast-paced situation like an emergency room, would definitely be useful and be the intersection of everything I want to do,” Lewis says.

“I want to be a doctor, but I don’t want to retire as one — I want to eventually get into health policy and serve on the board of a hospital and perhaps get into legislation that changes how we look at health care accessibility.”

With graduation now in sight, Lewis is thankful that she learned how to balance academic pursuits and hang time with friends.

“I never went anywhere on spring break, but I remember just hanging out with friends on the Horseshoe, talking from 2 a.m. until the sun came up,” she says. “That’s one of those memories that you’ll always have.”

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