By Julia Parmley
It’s not often dreams come true.
But GW medical student Stephanie Williams’ did on June 20, when she was crowned Miss District of Columbia 2010.
A Miss D.C. runner-up in 2009, Ms. Williams has aspired to win a pageant since she was a child growing up in Atlantic City, N.J., the home of Miss America pageants for 80 years.
“When I was little I used to go to the parades and pageants and had always wanted to compete,” she says. “It was a childhood dream of mine come true.”
As the newly crowned Miss D.C., Ms. Williams will be busy making appearances and raising awareness for her platform, “A Dose of Prevention: Smart Medicine for What Ails America,” which focuses on preventative care, as well as raising money for the Miss America organization charity Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), a nonprofit that benefits children’s hospitals. To date, Ms. Williams has raised approximately $3,000 for CMN and says she will continue to during her yearlong reign.
Preventative care is a cause personal to Ms. Williams — last summer she spent three weeks on a medical mission in northern India to treat underserved populations.
“We went into areas that are miles away from any kind of health care and set up medical tents,” she says. “It was great exposure, especially after my first year in medical school, and it really opened my eyes to how lucky we are in the United States to have resources to carry out preventative care. That’s why I wanted to focus on preventative care for my platform.”
To win Miss D.C., Ms. Williams had to nab high scores in swimsuit, talent, evening gown, on-stage questions about her platform and in the 10-minute interview with a panel of five judges. Miss Williams did better--she won the interview and evening gown portions as well. She believes she breaks the mold of the “typical pageant girl” and says that may have helped her stand out in competition.
“Pageants are something I always wanted to do but I wasn’t training to compete as a little girl,” says Ms. Williams. “I’m a relatable and fun medical student with a unique platform, so I think I was very different than other contestants.”
In preparation for the pageant, Ms. Williams participated in at least two mock interviews a week for three months, practiced her walk, exercised and took voice lessons— all while studying for the first of her three medical boards.
“I took Step 1 (the first of the medical boards) the same day as the interview portion for Miss D.C.,” says Ms. Williams. “Step 1 is arguably the most important test of a doctor’s career as your score is a major determinant of which residency programs you can get into. When I was studying for boards and preparing for the pageant I had every hour planned out because otherwise it would not have worked! I’m definitely a good multitasker.”
Saying she wanted to wait to compete in pageants until she had a “substantial resume,” Ms. Williams graduated from Wagner College in 2008 with a 4.0 GPA and a major in arts administration with double minor in biology and chemistry. Ms. Williams, who will take the next year off from medical school to fulfill her Miss D.C. duties, says GW’s location and reputation were the reasons she applied.
“I knew I wanted to go to medical school in city and thought there was no better city to spend your 20s than D.C.,” she says. “I think GW’s medical school is excellent; it gives early clinical exposure, has a diverse patient population and has a great focus on clinical care.”
In just six months, Ms. Williams will be competing for the title of Miss America in Las Vegas. But it’s a competition she is ready for —it’s a dream come true, after all.
“Growing up watching the pageants and seeing how poised, well-educated and well-spoken the women were was inspiring to me,” she says. “I wanted to be like that for other little girls watching. And I really believe in my platform. Being Miss D.C. gives me a stepping stone and voice I wouldn’t otherwise have."