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Richards ’19 Is Poised for a Medical Career  

by catherine elvy, staff writer

A Princeton University senior is jumpstarting a career centered around public service.

After arriving at Princeton, Denay Richards ’19 discovered a passion for volunteer initiatives, especially those on behalf of disadvantaged youngsters. “Community service is a key part of who I am and part of my mission as a Christian,” she said.

The Caribbean native also is majoring in molecular biology in preparation for a medical career, most likely in cardiothoracic surgery. Richards envisions herself participating in regular medical missions, especially to her native St. Lucia and other underserved countries.


PennSpringMagSmall2019With graduation on the horizon, Richards paused to credit the mentorship she has received from Christian Union’s Princeton ministry for encouraging her to take ownership of her faith and cultivating a palpable desire to invest in the lives of others. The ministry has provided the “community and family that I have always wanted,” said Richards. “It’s been such a blessing and honor.”

Richards thanked Christian Union Ministry Fellow Qwynn Gross for providing enriching spiritual and leadership materials during Bible courses, plus support during difficult personal chapters. “Qwynn is everything to me,” said Richards. “She is like a mother to me.”

In turn, Gross noted how Richards has advanced in her engagement with the Bible and pursuit of the Lord. “Throughout the semesters, and with various hurdles to overcome, Denay has always welcomed conversations that would challenge her ability to love God sincerely, love people, and forgive,” said Gross. “From the first day of meeting Denay until now, I can say, it has been my honor to witness the saving grace of our Father in her life.” 

Moreover, Richards is grateful for the space that Christian Union provides to allow undergraduates to probe their faith. Though she grew up in a Christian household, she walked away from Christianity during high school after a painful experience at church and even labeled herself as an atheist.

Later, as a freshman at Princeton, Richards battled depression and anxiety. “It’s a very serious feeling to feel like your identity is lost,” she said.

During a subsequent visit from her parents, Richards agreed to attend a Princeton church. “I stepped in the church, and I felt loved,” said Richards of Trinity Church. “I felt like I belonged. I turned back to God.”

During her sophomore year, Richards gradually became involved with Christian Union as she worked through a series of spiritual and personal challenges. Richards, who spent her formative years in Pennsylvania, especially embraced the ministry’s TruThursday activities for students of the African diaspora.

Ministry Fellow Gross termed Richards’ spiritual rebirth as extraordinary. “In reflection, I can only say that her transformation was happening before my eyes as she welcomed prayer, remained connected in Bible course along with several other [Christian Union] outlets, and she actually applied the Scriptures highlighted for her,” said Gross. Click to Tweet

Such a revitalization also helped to energize Richards’ fervor for community service.

During her freshman year, Richards began volunteering at Loaves and Fishes, a soup kitchen in Trenton, New Jersey. As well, she began serving as a mentor with Academic Success Today, a Princeton program that provides mentors for John Witherspoon Middle School students.

As a sophomore, Richards began serving as a volunteer at Princeton Medical Center’s emergency department. Some of her interest in the medical field dates back to her early childhood when her mother received an emergency kidney transplant. “I was constantly in a medical environment,” she said. Hospital personnel were “really nice to me. I just really loved that environment.”

Of key importance, Richards founded Empower during her sophomore year. The Princeton-based organization provides self-esteem and leadership training to elementary and middle-school girls in Trenton. Richards especially wants to bolster their self image and help them to develop as leaders in their community.

In addition to her community service, Richards has participated in Princeton Highsteppers, Caribbean Connection, and the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students.

In the fall, Richards will begin pursuing a dual doctoral degree for physician–scientists at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. As a Christian entering the medical field, Richards noted her awe for the intersection of faith and science. “It’s so beautiful how the world works and how the body works,” said Richards. “Science, for me, reminds me of the mysteries of God.”

The intricacies of both the body and the universe point to the handiwork of a divine creator. “God is in control of minute things,” she said.

Wherever her career leads, Richards also plans to devote a portion of her time to mentoring and other volunteer efforts. She also plans to spend part of her career treating patients in low-income regions. “The Bible talks about being a servant,” she said. “Community service just reminds me to stay humble and just to see that I am in service to others.” 

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