Featured Alumna: Alexandra Lewis '01

Dr. Alexandra Lewis '01 stands with her classmates at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in her first year of medical school.
Courtesy of Alexandra Lewis '01

Dr. Alexandra Lewis ’01 stands with her classmates at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in her first year of medical school. Courtesy of Alexandra Lewis ’01

As an attending anesthesiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), Convent of the Sacred Heart alumna Dr. Alexandra Lewis ’01 works to save lungs and lives. Her medical experience allows her to specialize in anesthetic care for critically-ill lung cancer patients.  
At Sacred Heart, Dr. Lewis fell in love with her math and science courses. Her most memorable classes were calculus and biology. Outside of her academic courses, Dr. Lewis was a writer for the King Street Chronicle and participated on the lacrosse and cross-country teams. With her involvement in extracurricular activities and strong academic record, she gained admission to Yale University.
At Yale, Dr. Lewis considered several different majors, including architecture and biology. However, she ultimately decided to major in “History of Science, History of Medicine” because it was a combination of all her interests: history, sociology, science, and medicine. Through this major, Dr. Lewis was able to fulfill her pre-medical requirements for medical school admission. 

Dr. Lewis explores Pompeii, Italy. Courtesy of Alexandra Lewis '01
Dr. Lewis explores Pompeii, Italy.
Courtesy of Dr. Alexandra Lewis ’01

She also spent time volunteering at the Yale-New Haven Medical Center, and on medical mission trips. From these experiences, she realized that she wanted to make a daily impact on other people’s lives. 
“I was attracted to medicine for many reasons,” Dr. Lewis said. “When I volunteered, I built meaningful relationships with patients. I realized that patients trust you with the most intimate and personal aspects of their life and you have a chance to help them at the most vulnerable point in their lives. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine.”
After Yale, Dr. Lewis took an unconventional path to medicine. She decided to explore the world before applying to medical school by taking a year off after graduation. During her gap year, she completed a Master’s program in International Policy and Health Economics at the London School of Economics (LSE). During her time at LSE, Dr. Lewis traveled to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, where she met world leaders in global health policy. She also completed research on the development of mental health care following the deinstitutionalisation of psychiatric services, and had the opportunity to travel to Verona, Italy and Barcelona, Spain to present her research findings at international conferences.
While studying abroad, Dr. Lewis visits Florence, Italy. Courtesy of Alexandra Lewis '01
While studying abroad, Dr. Lewis visits Florence, Italy.
Courtesy of Dr. Alexandra Lewis ’01

“It was the best decision of my life to live and study in London for the year. London is truly an international city,” Dr. Lewis said. “My graduate studies at LSE were different than my undergraduate experience at Yale. My classmates were from all over the world and they offered interesting perspectives on health care disparities in their own countries. Most of the learning was obtained from small group discussions. There were no examinations to assess your progress during the year. So, the completion of your master’s program depended on a single examination at the end of the year.”
Upon completion of her master’s program, Dr. Lewis fulfilled her long-term goal of attending medical school. She enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). In medical school, she continued to pursue her passion for global health, and researched international opportunities offered at the medical center. After her first year in medical school, she learned that UPMC had an affiliated transplant hospital in Sicily, Italy, and she applied for a research fellowship to study surgical pathology there for three months during the summer.
While in Sicily, Dr. Lewis developed an interest in the difference between the care in Europe and the United States. However, she wanted to focus on helping patients in developing countries. Therefore, Dr. Lewis organized a medical mission trip to Mexico with several medical students to provide medical supplies for communities in need. When Dr. Lewis chose a specialty, she ultimately decided to pursue anesthesiology.
“When I was in medical school, I remember witnessing a patient coming off of cardiac bypass and watching the anesthesiologist manage hemodynamics to restore the patient’s normal cardiac function. At the end of bypass, the body is rewarmed and the heart restarts with a series of shocks applied to the surface of the heart,” Dr. Lewis said. “It is the most incredible experience to watch a patient’s heart restart. I think this experience was one of many that influenced my decision to select anesthesiology as a career.”
After spending four years training in anesthesia, she decided to sub-specialize in thoracic anesthesia, and completed a full year of training at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). After her fellowship, Dr. Lewis joined MSKCC as an attending anesthesiologist. She currently spends her time providing anesthetic care for a variety of cancer patients, but focuses on those with lung cancer.  
“Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is a special place. Many of my co-workers are fully committed to the fight against cancer because they have friends and/or relatives who have lost the fight against cancer or who are cancer survivors,” Dr. Lewis said. “My patients make me realize that people need to stop complaining and focusing on the inconsequential things in their lives. As long as we are alive, we will be faced with challenges and our faith will be tested.” 
Dr. Alexandra Lewis '01 stands with her classmates at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in her first year of medical school. Courtesy of Alexandra Lewis '01
Dr. Alexandra Lewis ’01 (center) stands with her classmates at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in her first year of medical school.
Courtesy of Dr. Alexandra Lewis ’01

In the upcoming year, Dr. Lewis plans to focus on clinical research, writing publications, and giving back to her community. She is particularly interested in women’s rights and empowering young women to pursue careers in medicine.
“The road to medicine is not easy and it requires incredible strength and commitment. I think there are areas within medicine that are dominated by men. Anesthesia is a perfect example. Although women are still a minority in these specialties, it is changing. I would encourage young women from Sacred Heart to challenge these stereotypes in medicine,” Dr. Lewis said.
 – Arielle Kirven, Co- Arts and Entertainment Editor