Los Angeles,
06:00 AM

Intern Heads White Coats for Black Lives Chapter

To put it mildly, Azaria Lewis has a very full plate.

Lewis is a second-year osteopathic medicine student, a teaching assistant and president of her campus' newly formed White Coats for Black Lives chapter—while also paying her bills by working part-time as a model.

What's more, she recently has gotten involved in volunteer work to help sexual assault survivors and the Pomona Homeless Outreach Program. All of that is happening along with returning to Cedars-Sinai for another in her series of research internships at the medical center, opportunities Lewis credits with playing a huge role with her admission to osteopathic medical school.

Lewis isn't fazed by her jam-packed schedule. She says she is inspired by her father. He got started in healthcare as a hospital janitor, and spent years juggling multiple jobs along with going to nursing school. Today he is a surgical registered nurse with a full-time position at one facility and a part- time role at another. "He's truly the hardest-working person I know," Lewis said.

Since childhood she has been attracted to a career in medicine. "You can help people in many, many different roles. But the draw for me was helping people in a way that I saw as the most powerful," Lewis said.

She wants to go into family medicine. In her future practice, she plans to emphasize the importance of fitness and the benefits of good nutrition and a plant-based diet. (Lewis, a star pole vaulter in high school, has been a vegan for about eight years.)

The daughter of a black father and a white mother, Lewis speaks passionately about helping underserved minority patients and playing a role in overcoming health inequities. "Being biracial really framed my outlook in a powerful way," she said.

Getting into an osteopathic medical school, though, was a struggle. She didn't have the grades to even apply when she earned her undergraduate degree from University of California, Davis, in 2012. Although Lewis completed her bachelor's degree in four years, she said her studies were hampered by personal and family crises. One of those crises was suffering a sexual assault, a trauma that motivated her decision to be a volunteer advocate for sexual assault survivors, she said.

To find her way into medicine after graduating from college, Lewis pursued internships. In 2014, Lewis landed the first of what are now four research internships at Cedars-Sinai.

Manisha Chaudhary, Cedars-Sinai's program manager for academic visitor and internship programs, remembers meeting Lewis then and being impressed. "She was doing all these wonderful things," including tutoring students, Chaudhary said. "I couldn't even listen to everything she had going on and keep it straight in my head! I was just so fascinated by her."

Azaria Lewis, research intern and medical student
I just can't sit back. If I have a free moment, I'm going to use it so that we can progress and we can elevate and we can make change.
Azaria Lewis, research intern and medical student