“Not all who wander are lost,” wrote JRR Tolkien in Lord of the Rings.
Second-year Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine student Halle Bagshaw personifies these words. The 28-year-old Quakertown High School graduate took a circuitous path to get to Temple/St. Luke’s in Bethlehem, keeping her eye focused on her goal along the way as it became clearer and more insistent.
Her wanderlust spirited Bagshaw from undergraduate studies at Duke University—earning a bachelor’s in art history, minoring in premed-- to Washington DC working in a genetics lab and then as a human resources consultant with several government agencies: the FBI, Customs, Department of Defense and others. After a few years and some soul-searching, she felt drawn to medicine stronger than ever.
“People told me not to go this route, but I did it anyway,” Bagshaw says with a rebellious chuckle.
The Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill is the Lehigh Valley’s first and only four-year medical school, where the region’s brightest young minds go to become doctors. By cultivating home-grown medical talent, such as Bagshaw, who has deep roots in the Greater Lehigh Valley. St. Luke’s is helping the region to secure its health and well-being amid a worsening doctor shortage nationally.
“I knew all along the way that I wanted to be in medicine,” said Bagshaw. Obsessed with the field, she read health-related content in the New York Times and anywhere else she could find it. She returned home in Bucks County in 2020, took some refresher courses in the sciences at Temple University to prepare for medical school. She was accepted at Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine and started the four-year program in 2021.
“I’m in the right place doing what I love,” she says. “The small class size, pace and support from the teachers and staff make this an excellent program.”
“It’s amazing how much they want to be part of our education as doctors.”
She likens the art appraisal skills she learned at Duke to performing the history and physical on patients.
“Examining a patient and a painting follows a similar route,” Bagshaw explains. “You look for the little details that stand out and then combine them into the larger whole, always keeping the history in mind.”
Along the way, she has been inspired by the memory of her childhood friend, Sarah Parvin, who died of ovarian cancer in the sixth grade. “I always wondered if one day there could be a treatment that would have saved her,” she offers.
Bagshaw is eager to start of her third year in medical school in the fall, during which she will gain exposure to patient care in the areas of family and internal medicine, emergency room medicine, psychiatry and OBGYN. She’s keeping an open mind about her direction after medical school. She’s attracted to dermatology as well as infectious diseases; she’ll need to decide in two years.
She trusts her instincts and drive, which brought her this far in her quest to be a doctor. She feels her passion for medicine deeply and is invested in it over the long run, just as she’s committed to St. Luke’s and serving the health care needs of her community.
Her wandering days may not be over, but she contends she was never really on an unchartered course. Just exploring and discovering life’s options in her own way and in her own time.