Wednesday, July 19, 2023
What does it take to complete two doctorate level programs within a year from each other? If you ask Alexa Vercelli, D.O., Ph.D., she’ll tell you a lot of planning, family support and ice cream. That’s right. Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s (LUCOM) first dual degree student needed all three to earn her Ph.D., and D.O., just nine months apart.
Alexa graduated from LUCOM in May 2023 matching in the OBGYN program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Prior to that she earned her Ph.D., in Healthcare Ethics from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., in August 2022.
“The program [at Duquesne] was extremely welcoming and supportive to allow me to continue working in research full-time while going to school,” Alexa stated. “The department gave me the same ‘at home’ feeling I had when I interviewed at LUCOM.”
After earning her master’s with a year left before beginning her tenure at LUCOM, Alexa did not plan to pursue her Ph.D. She was inspired by her advisor and coordinator at Duquesne to advance her education and they even helped her create a plan to help make it possible.
“I switched from working full-time to working part-time so I could double up on classes and clinical rotations in order to complete the in-person requirements prior to medical school,” Alexa explained. “Then during my time at LUCOM, I worked on my comprehensive exams, defending my proposal, as well as writing and defending my dissertation.”
Alexa’s husband, Bill Harrington – a current fourth-year student at LUCOM, credits her planning in helping her garner such an incredible feat.
“One thing that I admire about my wife is how much of a planner she is,” Bill detailed. “That held true when it came to Alexa planning her study schedule. Like clockwork, after she would take an exam on Monday night, her focus would shift from medical school to completing her dissertation.”
Bill recognizes her planning, but Alexa compliments Bill on being that family support she needed during the taxing times.
“I am grateful to my husband, Bill, for being an amazing partner throughout medical school,” Alexa mentioned. “Being in different years, we have been able to take turns carrying the team for each other during those busier and more stressful times.”
In the future, Alexa hopes to exercise both her degrees through education and advocacy.
“Ethics is a complex and situationally specific field that grows and adapts along with medicine,” Alexa said. “Within OBGYN, there are numerous opportunities for ethical discussion and education. I want to be a resource to bring education to patients, families, and providers. I hope to advocate for ethical care in complex patient encounters by supporting ethics committees and being an open door to colleagues.”
As far as the ice cream? Well, who wouldn’t want a little bit of ice cream to help them get through tough situations or to celebrate during the happy times and major accomplishments.