By Michael Ferraresi
GCU Today Magazine
Erica Wadas will need to get used to New England blizzards this winter.
The Arizona native never has had to dig her way out of the garage or scrape a frozen windshield. But that’s about to change for the Grand Canyon University alumna, who
graduated this year from the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine and recently began her residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., just a few miles from the Ivy League campus.
Wadas, 30, is working in general medicine with a variety of patients and also is doing rotations that expose her to specialty areas of medicine, such as cardiology, endocrinology and gastrointestinal disorders.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Wadas earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication but felt drawn to medicine. After working for a surgical equipment company, she enrolled at GCU, initially thinking she would study nursing.
A mentor directed Wadas toward the pre-med program and on a path more closely aligned with that of her father, a longtime Phoenix gastroenterologist. She said GCU helped her focus on what she was truly called to do, after trying public relations and nursing first. Wadas graduated from GCU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, with an emphasis in pre-medicine.
“It’s hard to say it was in one moment when it crystalized for me,” Wadas said. “As I got older, it was realizing what I loved and what I’m good at, where my strengths are, and finding a career where I could help people.
“When I got to GCU, it was the people who made me stay. They took a personal interest in me. That’s pretty incredible, especially coming from a large school like ASU.” (Click here to watch an Alumni Spotlight video about Wadas.)
She was president of the GCU chapter of the AzHOSA health professions club, which
was new at the time but since has grown into the largest campus club of its kind in the U.S. As she became involved with networking and community service, Wadas saw she could have an impact as a physician, just like her father.
Wadas credited Haley Peebles, a GCU faculty member and former AzHOSA adviser, with recognizing her God-given abilities. Peebles, now associate director of GCU’s Center for Integrated Science, Engineering and Technology, saw that Wadas had the interpersonal skills, passion and grades to go to medical school and pushed her to challenge herself.
“People give up on things or on other people too quickly,” Peebles said. “It’s nice to see that you can redirect someone’s path and that pointing someone in the right direction can work out exactly as it’s supposed to if you invest in people, you’re there and you have their best interests at heart.”
Peebles attended Wadas’ graduation from medical school, and when her former student gave an impassioned speech on behalf of her class, citing the need for future doctors, Peebles knew her assessment years ago had been accurate.
As a medical student, Wadas assisted physicians at the Wesley Center in Phoenix. The clinic provides services to a low-income, at-risk population, so she had the opportunity to help heal people without consistent health care or resources about good health. She imagines her residency will be stellar, too.
“It will certainly be different in New Hampshire, with a different patient population,” she said. “But what I’ve learned about educating people about their health, and chronic conditions like diabetes or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, will remain the same. I really enjoy teaching people how to achieve a higher quality of life.”
Now, if she could just figure out how to put chains on her tires, the roads seem to be opening up to Wadas as she motors into a future of caring for patients.