Meet Grace Suttle: A Jersey City Med Student Joining the Fight Against COVID-19

Written by:

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, some medical schools have decided to expedite the graduation process and hold ceremonies weeks before their original dates. Because of these unprecedented early graduations, new doctors like Jersey City native  Dr. Grace Suttle are now able to enter into the battle against COVID — which could serve as a great deal of relief to currently overworked medical workers. 

We got the chance to speak to Grace who graduated early from medical school this month and is preparing to join the frontlines to fight COVID-19, proving that health care heroes can come at any age. Here is her story:

grace suttle jersey city

{Photo credit: @grace_fe}

Her Experience Growing Up in Jersey City

Born and raised in Jersey City, Grace lived in The Heights for her whole life. She says the diversity and sense of community are what really shaped her love for her city. The strength of Jersey City’s community is still shining bright, even through these unprecedented times. “Although the dynamic has changed, we still see our community members coming together to support one another, now more than ever,” she told Hoboken Girl.

Grace came from humble beginnings right here in JC. Her mother — who immigrated here from Bolivia — worked grounds cleaning and maintenance for a local company for over 20 years. Her father was a Vietnam veteran who went on to work in construction for local Jersey City companies. She says of her roots, “I’m one of the first physicians in my family. We didn’t have a lot, but what we did have was each other.”

Grace credits a lot of her strength of character to her upbringing. Her family’s work ethic and her hometown’s sense of community certainly rubbed off on her, making her a stronger and more resilient person. The culmination of her family and community is what gave her the strength to not only become a first-generation medical student but also to adapt to this unprecedented situation and join the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19 that rages on. Beyond the scope of her own life, she claims that Jersey City “has truly shaped my perspective of the world and fostered an open-minded mentality, which has only enriched my experience as an individual.”

From College to Medical School 

grace suttle jersey city medical student

{Photo credit: @grace_fe}

Grace’s ties with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School date back to her high-school years when she participated in the Mini-Med program offered by Rutgers. The Mini-Med program is still running and Grace recommends it to local high school students who may be interested in the healthcare field.

After graduating from McNair High school in 2012, Grace attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, studying exercise science and applied kinesiology. Her decision to go to Rutgers rested heavily on the fact that it was close to home and it was an affordable option, as she would be supporting herself through her higher education.

Rutgers was also an excellent fit for her because its science programs have a strong reputation — and from a young age, she knew her passion was in the field of medicine. 

Read More: Brian Pisano, RN in the Cardiovascular ICU at NYU Langone Medical Center

“I’ve had an interest in the sciences since I was younger, and several shadowing opportunities. Exposure to medicine and inequalities in healthcare at a young age also impacted my decision.”  

The next step for Grace was to enter The New Jersey Medical School. “My interest in Rutgers Medical School specifically grew as I learned about their mission and involvement in giving back to our local communities and advocating for marginalized patient populations — which is something I wanted to dedicate my career to.”

That wasn’t the only influence over her decision to study medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Grace reveals that “things shifted as I entered my senior year of college. My father sustained a traumatic brain injury,” she shared. “That experience definitely carved my interests within certain specialties and ultimately helped me find my field of choice in physical medicine and rehabilitation.” 

Graduating Early + Joining the COVID-19 Frontlines

Grace’s medical school class graduated a month earlier than anticipated, but she says that given the state of the North East right now, it “wasn’t surprising.” 

Like many medical students across the country, Grace had to get prepared for an early graduation. Fortunately, she already completed her medical school requirements in early February, so she wasn’t caught off guard when her graduation date was pushed up a few weeks due to the pandemic. On April 13th, her virtual graduation ceremony was held online. She says the experience was “definitely very different” from how she imagined graduation would be.

Beyond just being a huge accomplishment, graduating medical school marked the completion of a major life goal for Grace because she was a first-generation medical student. “I wanted my mom and family to be a part of the ceremony. But my friends and family logged in to watch our ceremony and screen recorded my name being read aloud, so it was still a special occasion.” 

And to add some extra fun to this amazing accomplishment of hers, Grace got to speak on NBC and share a little bit of her own story. “My mom was also able to watch me live during the interview which was also a blessing,” Grace says off the NBC interview.

Regardless of the unprecedented circumstance {aka COVID-19}, Grace does feel prepared to enter the workforce, albeit a little early. “I believe NJMS trained us to be well rounded and competent physicians, and I do feel prepared,” she said.

Before she’s thrown into the workforce to fend for herself, however, she does have a year’s worth of time to prepare, even though it still won’t completely be smooth sailing. She says she understands that her internship year is “a shift towards autonomy and an increased workload — and most definitely will not be an easy one, especially in this climate.” 

See More: Meet the 2 ICU Nurses That Moved From Colorado to Hoboken to Help COVID-19 Patients

For Grace, things are pretty planned out for the next few years. Her intern year starts this June in Internal Medicine at Morristown Medical Center. Once she finishes the internship, she will go on to complete specialty training for PM+R at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation program located in West Orange, NJ. 

Future Career Goals

doctor grace suttle

{Photo credit: @grace_fe}

After completing residency and her specialized training, Grace has a few more plans mapped out for herself. She says that her long-term goal is “to set up a local clinic in the Hudson/Essex area to provide therapy options for patients that may not have access otherwise, especially within the realm of rehabilitation.”

Grace tells us that, “there is so much that goes into caring for individuals in the realm of rehab — from traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, cancer, and so much more — in order to help improve their functionality and quality of life.” Rehabilitation and improving the lives of those in need is where her passion lies, especially after struggling with her father’s condition. 

Another one of her core values is healthcare equality. After living in such a diverse and loving community {looking at you, Jersey City}, but also being exposed to the inequity within it, she plans to use her education and training to give back to her community, to fight for equal care for all. She says, “a strong belief of mine is that being undocumented or underinsured should not impact an individual’s quality of life. So one day in the future, I hope to offer these services to my community.” 

Although she doesn’t start her residency program until June, Grace is already joining the helping in the battle against COVID-19. She is currently involved with the many initiatives that are going on at the New Jersey Medical School. “I volunteer with other bilingual graduates to follow up with Spanish-speaking COVID patients on symptom management and patient education. I intend to continue this telemedicine initiative until my start date. Also, we have been helping mobilize food in our local communities in Newark to help families and the elderly in need, every Thursday,” she said.

As for what the future holds, Grace leaves health care workers on the frontlines with one message — “Thank you to all our healthcare heroes and essential workers helping to keep our communities running! Sending you all prayers, love, and strength.”

If you’re interested in helping out the community during these challenging times, Grace provided multiple different outlets you can donate to, including:

  • – To donate toward food distribution, click here.
  • – Click here to donate PPE.
  • – To donate plasma to help treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients if you have recovered from COVID-19, please email Covidplasma@uhnj.org or contact 973-972-5474.

Thank you to Grace and all the other healthcare heroes out there battling COVID-19 during these unprecedented times. You are the reason we are home safe and the reason why we will come out of this stronger than before.

Know another healthcare hero we should do a feature on? Email us hello@hobokengirl.com!

EMAIL BUTTONS


Did you know: We started a podcast about all things news and lifestyle in Hoboken + Jersey City! Listen to the latest episode of Tea on the Hudson here and subscribe.


Written by:

Corinne is a Jersey girl who has always loved to write, create, and make people laugh. Always the “comedian” of the friend group, she's a stand up comic and aspiring comedy writer. She studied communications/film and media at the University of Miami, with a minor in both psychology and exercise science, but now she’s living in downtown Jersey City. Singing and playing the guitar and piano are her favorite hobbies when she’s not writing, working out, or going to comedy shows.