Danielle Ansong pursues longtime interest in medicine with research and volunteer work

March 8, 2023

Virginia Commonwealth University junior Danielle Ansong was only in sixth grade when she developed a passion for medicine.

A first-generation Ghanaian American, Ansong would volunteer in the hospice department of a local hospital in Hampton, Virginia, where she grew up. When she got to high school, her interest in medicine continued to grow, and she became a certified emergency medical technician.

When it came time to apply to colleges, she chose VCU because of the reputation of the VCU School of Medicine.

“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, and I wanted to make connections in that field,” said Ansong who is majoring in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry at the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences and is on a pre-med track in the VCU Honors College. “I was also interested in VCU because of how diverse it is. We have students from everywhere and that has aided in my education. I’ve been able to grow in knowledge.”

Her interest in volunteering continues on campus where she volunteers at VCU Health. An active EMT, she also works with the Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department when she is back home in Hampton.

“I volunteer in the Children’s Pavilion at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU as a greeter,” she said. “I also volunteer with Simple Sunflower where we reorganize fresh flowers into new bouquets and gift them to patients at VCU Health. I have been doing that since my freshman year.”

Last April, Ansong participated in iCubed Commonwealth Scholars, working in the lab of Cecelia Valrie, Ph.D., director of the pediatric health and development lab in the Department of Psychology.

“We conducted research on the effect of asthma on children with sickle cell disease. That was my first research experience,” she said, noting she presented a poster on the findings.

This past summer, Ansong served as a research intern at Seattle Children’s Hospital, conducting malaria research in the lab of Alexis Kaushansky, Ph.D. Ansong chose the internship because of her interest in malaria.

“I am passionate about global medicine and global health. Malaria is the leading cause of death in children in Africa,” she said. “I do plan on going back to Seattle this summer to continue my research.

Ansong is also passionate about her culture and helping others celebrate the African diaspora in her role as president of the African Student Union. This is her second year in that role.

“We have over 450 current members,” she said. “I like helping people find somewhere to fit in so they don’t feel left out.”

She enjoys her African culture even though she grew up in America.

“I am very connected with my Ghanaian background. My siblings and I speak the native language of Twi,” she said, adding she enjoys making and eating Ghanaian food.

“My favorite is Jollof Rice, rice seasoned and blended with tomatoes, onions and peppers. It’s a red, delicious rice,” she said.

Ansong still feels the pull toward medicine that she felt earlier in life.

“My research draws me closer to medicine,” she said. “As I learn more, it makes me feel more needed in the field.”

Her classes help too, she said.

“I’ve had a few bumps along the way. I started strong but some classes gave me some problems,” she said. “Now I am seeing that I am capable of going down this path. I am being self-motivated, and I am putting in the work to get to the place I want to be.”