By the time this is published, Rebecca Vander Veer ’10 may have had malaria… again, but she seems unperturbed by the possibility. She explains that she will be taking part in a second clinical trial for a malaria vaccine. She saw an ad for the first trial on the Metro and liked the idea of helping to prevent this disease that affects so many people. “My friends think I’m crazy, but the doctors I work with think it’s amazing.”
Rebecca, now a Pediatric Dietitian Specialist in the NICU at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., didn’t always have an affinity for science. Freshman year, before coming to Randolph, she remembers telling her sister that she hated science. “I never thought I even liked science, much less loved it, but that completely changed when I came to Randolph and took Mrs. McMichens’ chemistry class.”
In addition to Chemistry, she liked Human Physiology. “When I got to Samford, I decided early on to major in nutrition and dietetics. I knew I wanted to help people through my career, and I felt that nutrition was a perfect combination of chemistry, human physiology, and helping to improve people’s lives.”
Prior to coming to Randolph in her sophomore year, she knew she loved the arts. She was involved in choir, band, and theater, and outside of school she took ballet, sang in operas, and played flute in her church orchestra. In 11th grade, she did her I-Search on how one becomes an opera singer and interviewed Ally Fees ’08, Colleen Beucher ’08, and her voice teacher Dr. Ginger Beazley, who had been Susanna Phillips ’99’s voice teacher.
She also loved Latin “because I love learning about language and the meaning of words. I was one of the seven kids in my class who took an extra linguistics class with Mr. Cobbs. We came back to school for his class even after we had graduated. Randolph gave me a platform to pursue activities that I loved – music, theater, and linguistics – while also preparing me academically for my career.”
After graduating from Samford, she completed a yearlong dietetic internship at the University of Virginia Health System, then passed the national exam to be a registered dietitian. She moved to D.C. to work at Children’s National soon after.
“I have my dream job,” she says. “Working with the tiniest and sickest of premature babies can be stressful, but it’s so rewarding when I see them grow up and soar out of the NICU.”
Photos: Rebecca at work and a cast photo from Theatre Randolph's 2010 production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.