NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — When Miasha O’Neal graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School’s Master of Public Health Program, she couldn’t help but think her mother would be proud.
“I know I shed a couple tears that day just thinking about her,” she said.
O’Neal was just 5 years old in 1989 when her mother became the victim of gun violence in Norfolk.
“I remember the nursing staff just being so nice ’cause I was so little and I had so many questions about what was going on,” she recalled.
Then and there, a kindergartner decided what she wanted to do when she grew up.
“That just left a lasting impression on me, so since then, I’ve always wanted to work in health care in some kind of way.”
O’Neal vividly remembers a baby shower hospital staff threw for her mother, who was pregnant when she was shot. The medical team saved O’Neal’s baby brother, but sadly her mother died from a heart attack on the day she was scheduled to come home from the hospital.
O’Neal still credits and holds eternal gratitude for Dr. LD Britt, the surgeon who saved her mother and gave them a few more months together.
She met him again for the first time in 32 years on the day before graduation.
“I’ve tracked his career over the years, I found out he went to Harvard [T.H. Chan] School of Public Health, and I actually did an internship there one summer,” she told WAVY.
Britt and the Sentara staff lit a spark in O’Neal. She hopes to spread that light as she sets out to help others heal with the same compassion that inspired her.
O’Neal, who is a mother with a full-time job, plans to return to EVMS to pursue a medical degree after her son finishes his first year of college next year.
She wants to become a pediatrician.