Dr. Olivia Schenck practices at @uvahealth as a general dermatologist.
After attending Princeton University, Olivia matriculated to @uvaschoolofmedicine. With the support of her mentors, she matched to Northwestern University for a dermatology residency.
She and her husband Robert (who is also a physician) are back in Charlottesville, working and raising their young child, Bennett.
From Dr. Olivia Schenck:
I grew up in Harrisonburg, VA, and graduated from Harrisonburg High School as salutatorian of my class. I was very fortunate to hear about a program called Questbridge Scholars and through it I was able to apply and win a full scholarship to Princeton University. At Princeton, I majored in molecular biology and earned a certificate (what we called a minor) in Chinese language and culture.
My family is Chinese, though both of my parents were born in Vietnam, so I grew up speaking a Chinese dialect called Teochew and listening to them speak Vietnamese. So it was fun and challenging for me in college to learn Mandarin from the very beginning in Chinese 101.
One of my most memorable experiences from college was traveling to Beijing for 8 weeks for a language immersion trip and being able to experience my grandparents’ home country.
After college, I matriculated to UVA for medical school. Early on a first year student I went on a language and research trip through the Guatemala Initiative and met a very inspiring 4th year student who was going into dermatology. This was the first time I had ever thought about dermatology as a speciality and her enthusiasm for it made me intrigued.
Over the next years I became involved with the dermatology interest group and finally in my 4th year, had my first dematology rotation. I had loved almost all of my third year rotations and had been very torn between different specialities. But after my first week on dermatology I knew I had found my calling.
With the support of my wonderful mentors at UVA and faculty from my away rotations, I matched to Northwestern University for dermatology residency and was also fortunate enough to couples match with my then fiancé and now husband, Robert, who also matched to NW for internal medicine (who I had met in first year of medical school).
In residency I had such an amazing time learning form leaders in the field of dermatology about all of the dermatologic subspecialties. Despite loving Chicago and all the incredible people in the department, especially my co-residents, Robert and I missed our families (especially after having our wonderful son Bennett).
We were so fortunate that Robert was able to match to gastroenterology fellowship at UVA and I was able to fulfill my dream of coming back to UVA as as dermatology attending. I am so excited to be back at UVA and practicing as a general dermatologist.
I love being able to see patients of all ages and really have the continuity of caring for the same person month after month, whether it is detecting skin cancers or helping to improve their quality of life from a debilitating rash. I am also excited to become more involved in education and pay it forward to all the medical students who remind me of myself not that long ago!
Living in Charlottesville has been such an amazing place to raise a young child and Robert and I feel so lucky to have family nearby again who can watch Bennett grow up into such a sweet little boy.
One of my favorite parts of growing up in a multicultural household was how much fun it was to have so many languages thrown together in a conversation – sometimes even in 1 sentence – there would be Teochew, Vietnamese, Engish, and sometimes even Mandarin (which my parents had been taught in school in Vietnam and both my sister and I learned in college) thrown in.
Another favorite memory is all the varied food we would have at the holidays: for example, we would usually do a traditional thanksgiving dinner with all the sides, but for Christmas my mom would make stir fry noodles, egg rolls, wontons, and Chinese chicken soup. Sometimes we would just have a combination of American and Chinese food on the table. Or my mom would add fish sauce as a “secret ingredient” to any number of American dishes to add an additional layer of umami.
Another favorite holiday for me was Chinese New Year with all of us in the kitchen, helping my mom make incredible home cooked food, then honoring our ancestors before devouring it all.
I hope Bennett will be proud of his beautiful heritage and all of the cultures he is a part of – Chinese, Vietnamese, Jewish, and Scottish/Irish. I hope that he will one day appreciate how much hard work, effort, and love has come together to make him who he is as a person and be proud to be part of the APIDA community.
Additionally, I hope that he will carry on some of our rich family traditions and create even more beautiful traditions of his own. As a woman, a mother, and a doctor of APIDA descent, I hope I can represent our community well and share with him a love for language, culture, and of course, all cuisines.