Chancellor Eugene Washington Visits the Huang Fellows

Huang Fellow Reeva Kandel Reflects on a Visit with Duke's Chancellor for Health Affairs, Eugene Washington, M.D.
“Can I combine my passions and find a future that best suits me? Am I being as open-minded as I should be about my options and decisions?”

Back in high school, I had an affinity for a bunch of different interests involving service and medicine. Many mornings have been spent running between club advisors’ rooms, sharing different powerpoints and different community projects — always in a race with the tardy bell. I enjoyed all of the work I was doing but it always felt as though coming to college would be this fork in the road where I needed to have made a concrete decision about what I wanted in the future and to choose between my passions.

When Chancellor Washington came to speak to us, we had already finished our freshman year at Duke, and I was still confused and slightly anxious about the future. I had not come to a decision about the course of study I wanted to take or the career path I wanted to follow, and what he had said tremendously assuaged my indecision and confusion. He talked about his own life and his own complex journey that inevitably lead to the person and professional he has become today.

Joe Biden, Matthias Gromeier, A. Eugene Washington, John Sampson  Vice President Joe Biden speaks with doctors in a laboratory at Duke University School of Medicine in February. Biden plans to speak about cancer treatment and prevention at a Cleveland Clinic facility on Thursday

Vice President Joe Biden meets with Doctors Matthias Gromeier, John Sampson, and Chancellor Eugene Washington during a visti to Duke Hospital.
Credit: AP Photo/Ben McKeown

From medicine to public health to where he is now, he is the all-encompassing type of professional I can only hope of becoming. He is the Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke, amongst a number of titles and accolades, and during his professional development, he talked about the decisions he made along with the open-mindedness and intuition he used in order to decide where to go and what to do. His path was something that I definitely thought about after his visit because it was so rich in a diverse array of experiences and led me to ask some introspective questions.

Can I combine my passions and find a future that best suits me? Am I being as open-minded as I should be about my options and decisions?

I’m still trying to figure that out, but from Chancellor Washington, I also learned that without passion and dedication, it doesn’t matter. You can have all the aspirations and passions in the world but if you want to do great things and things that are worthwhile, you need to back it up with effort. In his career, Chancellor Washington has jumped from college to college studying medicine and practicing public health all while being true to himself and putting in the work. He is where he is now because of his drive to improve healthcare and to foster its prosperity in our community.

Chancellor Eugene Washington - Chancellor of Health Affairs, Duke University

Chancellor Eugene Washington, M.D. – Chancellor of Health Affairs, Duke University

I am so grateful for his talk and for hearing such an interesting story of someone who came to be very influential. I have taken away a lot from his story and will continue to reflect on it during the rest of my time at Duke where I will be faced with countless questions and decisions that will impact my future. I will also continue to reflect on his story in the future when I too have stayed true to myself and paved my own unique yellow brick road, leading to even more possibilities for impact and change.

Reeva Kandel, Huang Fellow ’24

Kandel_ReevaReeva is from Cary, NC, and planning to major in Statistics and Global Health on the Pre-medicine track.