Voices of HMSOM: Bonney Always Knew Medicine Called
January 08, 2024
In Ashley Bonney’s earliest memories, there were always doctors, hospitals - even surgeries - on the family calendar.
Her little sister, six years younger, was born without a small bowel. The first four to five years of her sister’s life were watched carefully, under constant care. Bonney spent more than a few holidays in hospitals, as her sister underwent a liver transplant, and other, unique procedures.
Through it all, Bonney saw how good the surgeons were with fixing a child’s life-threatening problems - and gracefully answering questions from the family.
“We spent a significant amount of time in the hospital as a family,” Bonney recalled. “Two of the surgeons, in particular, became near and dear to us.”
That’s why Bonney, now a fourth-year medical student at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine poised to graduate in the spring, aspired to become one of those medical heroes working so doggedly for their patient. Now Bonney is at its cusp.
“Ashley Bonney will make a terrific doctor, considering all of her accomplishments,” said Jeffrey Boscamp, M.D., the president and dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.
MEDICINE IN INTERESTING TIMES
Bonney grew up in Maryland, and excelled academically. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2018. For a stint afterward she worked in health care - including a role as a chief scribe for an orthopedist, and also a job as a patient-care coordinator at an ophthalmology office.
Her experiences convinced her of pursuing her long-term dream of being a doctor. The philosophy of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine resonated with her early on, and it ended up being a perfect fit.
“The mission and vision of the school was very important to me - and it continues to be,” she said. “This institution was the only one to address inequities directly, it seemed. The Human Dimension is very active out in the community, for instance.”
COVID presented challenges in that direct outreach, of course. Bonney and the rest of the 2020 cohort started all their studies virtually - not at all what she and other patient-focused clinicians-to-be anticipated in their learning.
But the pandemic also presented a unique set of circumstances which made her a better doctor, according to Bonney. Her very first direct patient experience during medical school was administering the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine at the State of New Jersey-run “mega-site” at the Meadowlands. She and other medical students thus took part in the effort to turn the tide on a once-in-a-century health crisis.
“It was a great time to go to medical school - it enriched everything I did,” she said. “And when we finally did get back to in-person, I said, ‘I’m going to be the first person back in the classroom.’”
Bonney’s parents are originally from Ghana, and the family came to the United States for educational and professional opportunities. (Her mother is a nurse, and her father is a physics teacher.)
Having such opportunities across all demographics is crucial, she feels, and that’s why she kept herself involved in an array of extracurriculars during the pursuit of her medical degree.
Her leadership roles included: the presidency of the school’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association; the role of founder and president of the Black Medical Students Association; and a student ambassadorship on the Diversity and Equity Committee for the school.
But it wasn’t limited to these school groups. Bonney also did community service and outreach by: volunteering to be part of a “COVID Chat” with a local school district; doing a community project to provide real-time COVID advice via a Facebook page for parents and students alike in that same district; functioning as a student leader for events like a “physician for a day” for a local group of students; and pitching in at a community health and wellness fair at a church back in Maryland.
Every little bit counts, she said.
A BIT ABOUT BONNEY
Her sister Bethany is now in college, and living healthy and well. Bonney credits the surgeons who performed so well over the years with getting her sister back to a hospital-free existence. Thus Bonney came into medical school believing she would focus on surgery (it runs in the family; her uncle is also a surgeon back in Ghana).
But her medical education altered the plan a little: now the goal is obstetrics and gynecology. In this way she will still be able to intervene surgically to save lives almost like how her sister’s was; but she will also be able to assist in ways close to her heart, in ways including reproductive rights and gender health equity.
Up next are Match Day in March, commencement in June, and a residency, likely in the Tri-State area. Her ultimate goal is to heal, and continue to improve the profession via future research.
Her spare time is spent with her dog Barney, listening to Dateline podcasts, and also cooking some classic dishes like baked ziti and pesto alfredo to perfection.
“I do also want to teach throughout my career,” she said. “It’s important to show good representation, and give back part of what I got. Full circle.”