“Elizabeth and the research team worked incredibly well together, and she was able to find so much of the knowledge that often gets lost in the sea of health care data,” Novicoff said. “I am looking forward to continuing to work with her while she is in medical school, and I am very confident that she will be a great asset to both medicine and data science in the future.”
As a biology major, Driskill took a biostatistical analysis course early on that steered her toward data science. “That was my first real exposure to computer programming, and I really loved the thought process behind it as well as the fact that it could be applied to solve problems in the real world, specifically within health care,” she said.
At that time Driskill was working as a medical scribe in UVA Health’s emergency department. A scribe works closely with physicians, observing patient interviews and documenting important information for the patient’s medical record. The experience is important to the early development of future doctors, offering a front row seat to how medicine is practiced on the go in an intense and busy setting while caring for patients from all walks of life. It confirmed to Driskill that she wants to be a doctor.
“As a scribe, I have witnessed firsthand the vast amount of health care data available and the limited number of people who know how to handle this information,” she said. “Health care data continues to grow, and I think it will be necessary to bridge the gap between physicians and researchers so that this data can be translated into meaningful discoveries and eventually help to improve patient care and quality of life.”
During the summer of 2018, Driskill gained additional perspectives on the practice of medicine at a small hospital in Arusha, Tanzania. There she worked for three weeks with physicians in several specialties, and assisted in obstetrics and minor surgeries, and applied wound dressings and tourniquets.
“I experienced the challenges faced by health care workers in a country where resources are severely limited,” she said.
Additionally, last winter Driskill shadowed an orthopedic surgeon at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, assisting in routine care and observing major surgeries.
“I’m not sure yet what specialty I’d like to go into. I find them all interesting, but as I go through medical school, I’m sure I will find my field,” she said.
As an undergraduate, she also conducted genetic research in the lab of UVA biology professor Paul Adler. There, among other projects, she and Adler used fruit flies to model the type of neuron death that affects Parkinson’s disease patients, with a goal of further understanding the pathways leading to disease and how it impairs movement and causes earlier death.
Driskill also has volunteered with the Special Olympics, is a member of a Christian fellowship group and has mentored young girls as a counselor at a Christian camp in North Carolina.
She also plays the acoustic guitar, sings and writes songs. Recently she completed a song about the COVID-19 pandemic called “Come Out on Top.”
Like other graduating UVA students, Driskill said she is disappointed that Final Exercises for 2020 graduates will not proceed as planned in May.
“I’m fortunate in that I walked the Lawn last year when I earned my bachelor’s in biology,” she said. “And I look forward to walking the Lawn again in four years when I earn my medical degree. Despite these hardships, for those of us who are still healthy, there is much to be thankful for.”