May 9, 2018 — Sonja Rasmussen, M.D. ’90, grins widely for the camera, holding with both hands a tiny baby with red hair, wearing a patterned onesie.
In another photo taken 22 years later, Rasmussen’s daughter, Amelia Watson, smiles from ear to ear, clutching with both hands an acceptance letter from the UF College of Medicine.
In each photo, the woman dons the same gray sweatshirt, which reads “UF medicine.” When Sonja learned Amelia would begin medical training at her alma mater, she was thrilled.
“I had so many wonderful experiences and relationships there, and I wanted her to have a similar start for her medical career,” Rasmussen says.
Watson, who recently completed her second year of medical school, feels passionate about her work as a student director of the Equal Access Clinic Network. She says her mother has imparted important lessons about service and work ethic that have guided her since childhood.
“I was raised in a house with two public servants who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so the duty to serve others was instilled at an early age,” Watson says. “My mom has taught me a lot about helping others and treating others with respect. For instance, she set up the Down Syndrome Clinic in Atlanta. I try to live this out by volunteering at the Equal Access Clinic to provide care for the medically underserved in our community.”
Rasmussen, who works in Atlanta as the director of the CDC Office of Infectious Diseases, says the most important nugget of truth she’s told her daughter is: “Things don’t always go your way.”
“I tell her, ‘You don’t always get what you want in your career, but if you work to make the best of the situation you’re in, it will all be okay.’ I’ve had several disappointments in my career that ended up putting me in even a better place than if I had gotten what I initially wanted,” she says.
Rasmussen looks forward to hearing about her daughter’s activities as a third-year medical student. She remembers her own third year as an enriching, exciting time.
“I remember helping with abdominal aortic aneurysm repairs and kidney transplants, delivering babies, and having fun in pediatrics taking care of kids. I also remember people,” she says. “I have very distinct memories of patients that I cared for, as well as my classmates and faculty, many of whom remain friends today.”
Watson says she was inspired to pursue a career in medicine after sustaining a running injury while a student at the University of Georgia. When she begins her clerkship in a few months, she looks forward to learning more about women’s health and emergency medicine.
When she and her mother get some time away from work and studying, they often go for runs, take hikes or kayak together.
“My mom and I both love to run. Growing up, she never missed a cross country or track meet, either in high school or at the University of Georgia,” Watson says. “She has always been a great mom and role model for me.”
Rasmussen says she and her daughter form a “formidable team” when it comes to shopping excursions, but she most enjoys seeing her daughter blossom into an altruistic, dedicated woman.
“I admire Amelia’s commitment to caring for underserved populations. I am so proud of the work she has done as one of the student directors of the Equal Access Clinic,” she says. “She is the hardest worker I know.”