Yale hockey player attracted to medical school's collaborative environment

March 02, 2018

Dunbar takes the blood pressure of a woman as student takes a man's blood pressure behind her.

Ashley Dunbar MD ’21 chose the collaborative environment at the Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine after recovering from a serious head injury that ended her Division I hockey career.

"As an athlete with a medical history of concussions, I knew that it could be my last time playing the game I loved, had trained so hard for and dedicated my life to for the past 13 years," she said. "The best professionals cared for me, yet each day of my convalescence was more challenging than the one before. The doctors assured me that I would be fine. Nevertheless, with each passing day spent in a darkened room, I felt handicapped and at an identity loss. Who was I if I could no longer play the sport that had shaped me?"

As her symptoms began to ease, she began to recognize that she had options — including helping others.

As a Yale alumna, she looked forward to returning to Connecticut to learn how to give others what her doctors gave her — a second chance.

“It was in this time of adversity that my life goal became aiding others with similar struggles,” she said. “I did not want others to feel the pain of unfulfilled potential and handicap because of injury or disease. I wanted them to know that they are understood — and not alone.”

Reflecting on the countless hours of hard work it took to become a successful collegiate hockey player is how Dunbar realized she possessed the character traits needed to become a successful physician. Playing hockey gave her the opportunity to set a goal and prove to herself that she could achieve it.

“I will never lace up my skates and win a hockey game again, but now I have a more important goal in mind — helping others overcome medical obstacles in pursuit of their dreams,” she said. “I like the idea of being able to have a part in shaping the legacy of this school,” she said.

Dunbar has forged her own path by enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program, experiencing patient care as an EMT, and executing basic clinical and translational research. Her ultimate goal is to become a surgeon.

School of Medicine

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