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Pinson ’19 Aspires to Medical Career

by catherine elvy, staff writer

A student-athlete, Claire Pinson relishes opportunities to support her teammates. Helping others to be their best is also a practice the Harvard College senior hopes to take into the medical field. 

“I was put on the team to touch the people around me,” said Pinson, a member of the women’s swimming and diving team. In addition to helping the Crimson make a splash at collegiate meets, Pinson ’19 also has a  passion to express  her faith, in and out of the pool. 

The pre-med student, who grew up in a Christian household, has flourished in her faith walk since enrolling in Harvard, especially via the mentorship she has received from Christian Union’s ministry. 


HarvardSpringMag2019SmallPinson appreciated the opportunity to attend Bible courses and also serve in ministry. She described students involved with Christian Union as “a community of people who are all striving to reach the same goal.”

With that, Pinson has taken ownership of her faith since arriving on campus. She is thankful that, through Christian Union, a lot of her questions about Christianity can be answered. 

“At Harvard, you have to approach it as almost an academic [discipline] to study,” she said. “Christian Union gives me an opportunity to ask questions without [fearing] judgment, and has helped me to develop answers to hard questions,” she said. Pinson, who serves as a team leader for the ministry’s weekly leadership lecture series, also appreciates the mentorship she has received.


Christian Union Ministry Fellow Anne Kerhoulas noted how Pinson shares her faith openly with teammates and classmates. “Claire has always had a bold faith. She’s the student who is talking about God with her teammates on day one and isn’t ashamed to identify herself as a Christian,” said Kerhoulas. “I love that about her.”

In addition, Pinson is thankful for the support of Aletheia Church and Athletes in Action (harvardci.com/athletes-in-action).

As a longtime athlete, Pinson takes joy in encouraging Harvard’s female swimmers and divers. The Sacramento native, who specializes in the butterfly and freestyle, began swimming competitively at age 4. Along the way, she learned that being a teammate is not about winning every race. 

Rather, “it’s helping everyone around you to be their best,” said Pinson. 

Pinson is proud of the spiritual commitment and growth among many of the team’s younger athletes. “I prayed for the team to be a beacon of light,” she said. 


Among the highlights of the remarkable 2019 season, the Crimson finished 7-2 overall and 6-1 in Ivy League action. The team then headed to the 2019 Ivy League Championships, which was held in February at Princeton University and aired on ESPN. 

During and after medical school, Pinson plans to stay active in the sport by participating in masters swim programs. Still, Pinson is candid about the ways she navigated the emotional journey of accepting Olympic prospects as beyond reach. 

“For me, it was a journey of realization that God had a way to use me other than the way I wanted,” said Pinson. “I had to be OK with that. The lifestyle of a professional athlete is just so tough.”

After a gap year, Pinson plans to follow in the lead of her father, an anesthesiologist, and commence medical college. She is majoring in cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology to pave the way for a medical career that focuses upon mental health. Pinson, who is minoring in East Asian studies and speaks conversational Japanese, is pursuing plans to spend a gap year studying eating disorders or other mental health issues at the University of Tokyo. 

Pinson developed interests in eating disorders and self-injury during a clinical psychology lab in her junior year. She especially is compassionate about helping individuals dealing with anorexia. “There is a part of suffering that some people find an identity in,” she said. “It’s very difficult to let go of that type of suffering.”

Moved by such needs, Pinson envisions a career at the intersection of clinical and psychiatric care, partially focused upon patients and families dealing with traumatic or terminal cases. 

Just as she was committed to being a faithful teammate inside the pool, Pinson is looking forward to serving the Lord boldly and serving people in the near future. 

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