Lifelong Learner Sonya Earns Her PhD

Mar 6 2023

For Sonya Coley Pitchford, PhD, one of our registrars, lifelong learning has always been a powerful motivator.

“Lifelong learning has always been important to me and a priority as I advance in my medical profession,” she says. “Earning a doctoral degree has been a lifetime goal and I am grateful that I’ve completed this journey. This will not only open more doors in my career, but the degree will strengthen my ability to become a scholar-practitioner to then contribute to my community and organization.”

Sonya has worked in health care for 37 years and came to Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in 2007.

“My journey here within the ministry has been a very good one, and has allotted me the opportunity to focus on my passion in the health care field,” Sonya says.

Her educational journey has allowed her to obtain four degrees in health care administration: first associate’s, then bachelor’s and master’s, and, most recently, her PhD, through our ministry’s tuition reimbursement benefits.

“I obtained my master’s in health care administration in 2016,” Sonya recalls. “I had a delay obtaining my doctorate degree because I was the primary caregiver for my mother, who passed away with lung cancer in December of 2016. After the passing of my mom, I took some time off for myself but felt that I was missing something in my life, which was helping others.

She continues, “I desire to become an advocate for cancer and suicide patients who need a voice. I decided the best way to achieve my personal goal of becoming an advocate is getting my doctoral degree.”

Sonya says that while it was a stressful path taken during the unprecedented worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, continuing her education has been an incredible and rewarding journey.

“I am so glad I made the commitment to pursue this opportunity, and I am incredibly proud that I remained resilient and persevered in my determination to complete this degree,” she says. “Now, I am ready to take on new challenges and opportunities afforded to me by my academic career.”

There are several people Sonya credits for their support in furthering her education and career.

“Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my Lord Jesus Christ for the special grace and mercies showered upon me that enabled me to endure all the difficulties I encountered during the pursuit of my doctoral journey. My faith keeps me going because of all the trials and tribulations I went through during my health care journey. I am so thankful to my God for the many opportunities he has bestowed upon me to this point.”

She also wants to thank her friends at Bon Secours who helped her stay on course.

“Rachel Hockman recruited me, and we have been good friends ever since. And my nurse friends were always strong advocates of education and lifelong learning. I thank them for instilling in me this continuous pursuit of knowledge.”

Lastly, Sonya expresses how much her children played a role in her growth.

“My late daughter, Tanieka, and son, Frank, understood and supported my goal and encouraged me along the way. They allowed me the time I needed to read, write and ponder. Throughout this journey, my siblings provided ongoing inspiration to stay the path.”

She adds, “going back to school at a time when my children were in high school made it exciting, at least for me. I understood firsthand some of what they were experiencing, and going back to school after so many years, it was a benefit they were there for me when I needed guidance with online higher education technology. Frank and I both obtained our bachelor’s degrees at the same time in 2013. We would compete with one another with seeing who would get the highest GPA. I am so proud of Frank’s academic successes and the confident professional man he has become. I hope I have instilled in him the love and philosophy of lifelong learning and inquiry.”

For those looking to go back to school or continue their lifelong pursuit of learning, Sonya offers this inspirational quote from Greg Anderson, a personal trainer.

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we live life.”

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