Erika Noel '10

Alumni Spotlight

Erika Noel smiling behind a podium

I believe we are living through such an age of crisis in which we have the opportunity to become pioneers of a better age.

SUA has provided all the tools for me to have a rock solid foundation in life. However, having never failed academically, I crumbled into pieces when I didn’t get accepted into medical school twice after graduating from SUA and my post baccalaureate program. Eventually, I was fortunate to be admitted into the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Hawaii. I thought being admitted into medical school was the end of this experience, but it was actually just the beginning of another seemingly endless journey.

During this time, my parents divorced after 25 years of marriage, my boyfriend of 11 years and I ended our relationship, and my days were filled with endless studying. It was not uncommon to study over 15 hours a day in a compact room without any windows to avoid distractions. There were many days when I felt alone.

The only things that got me through these difficult times were the help and support systems I’d developed. Actually, it became a tradition for me to wear my SUA hoodie to every single medical school and licensure exam. My classmates would always say things like, “Are you going to wear your navy or brown SUA hoodie tomorrow?”

I happily graduated from medical school in May 2019, and I am currently a pediatric resident physician at the only Children’s Hospital in the Pacific. Although I may not have regularly kept in touch with my SUA family, four of my SUA classmates flew to Hawaii to surprise me at my medical school graduation. Being surrounded by them and other SUA alumni from Hawaii during this occasion is something that still makes me smile even now.

COVID-19 takes up most of my day and inbox these days. When I go into work, nurses ask almost daily whether I can test a child or their parents for COVID-19, but with the limited number of tests and resources, I have to make difficult decisions that leave many, including myself, feeling uneasy.

The highlight of my day has become watching one of my pediatric patients or their family members laugh when I tell them I came to visit them in an astronaut suit, as it’s in that one moment that I’m able to provide an ounce of hope. Recently, I received an email feed with other SUA alumni physicians in which Danny Habuki shared words from the eminent British historian Arnold J. Toynbee: “ … those living in an age of crisis must become pioneers of a better age, striving to find positive solutions and thereby turning the age into one of achievement.”

I believe we are living through such an age of crisis in which we have the opportunity to become pioneers of a better age.