DURHAM, N.C.— Over the summer, the Blue Devils will be catching up with Duke women's basketball alumnae to see what they have been up to since leaving Durham. First up is 2001 graduate Georgia Schweitzer Beasley.
A four-year starter for the Blue Devils, Schweitzer Beasley was a 2001 Kodak and Associated Press All-America. She helped lead Duke to its first NCAA Final Four in 1999 as the Blue Devils upset three-time reigning NCAA Champion Tennessee in the NCAA Elite Eight. Schweitzer was the ACC Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001, while earning NCAA Tournament East Region MVP after her performance in the regional.
After graduating from Duke, you had a chance to play professionally. What was that experience like?
I had an incredible time playing in the WNBA for three seasons. To recognize you are playing and competing with the best players in the world gives you a sense of true accomplishment.
Being able to travel to major cities in the United States and playing in some of the most beautiful and storied venues like Madison Square Garden was also just really cool.
Instead of playing overseas during the offseason, you were an assistant coach with the Blue Devils. How was that experience?
Instead of playing overseas, I was an assistant coach at Duke during the WNBA offseason. In addition to coaching, I frequently practiced with the team and played on the "scout team." Players at Duke during that team included Alana Beard, Monique Currie and Lindsey Harding so practicing with them was actually not much different than the WNBA as those ladies are still amazingly talented and skilled.
Since you hoops career ended, what have you been up to?
Let's see... I married Jonathan Beasley in 2006 (and changed my name to Beasley), and we have son Reid, who is now six and daughter, Wyn, now 3.5, both kids and my husband are amazing. Reid and Jonathan attended the ceremony when I was inducted into Duke Hall of Fame during which I was 40+ weeks pregnant with Wyn and had her two days after the ceremony!
I also graduated from medical school in 2008, did seven years of residency in general surgery, am now a board certified general surgeon, during residency I did funded research and got a master's degree in clinical research, am now (June 2017) finishing a two year fellowship in advanced oncologic surgery, and will be starting back at Duke as an assistant professor of surgery where I will focus on clinical surgical oncology (take care of patients with cancer), teaching residents and medical students, and will also invest my energy into cancer research which will include writing grants for funding, clinical trials, and laboratory work.
How excited are you to return to Durham this summer and be back at Duke Hospital?
Very excited. Without a doubt, the colleagues I have at Duke are world class. Even though I have been in Ohio in fellowship, I have already been working with several collaborators there to get things started. In a very nice story, my work now circles me back around to working again with Henry Friedman, who I first met while I was an undergrad at Duke playing basketball. He helped me navigate the medical school process and while I went on to a different field (Henry will be the first to tell you he is NOT a surgeon), my research interests now align with the Brain Tumor Group and so I will be working with them. Their group has been extraordinarily successful and I honored by their support of me.
In addition the department of surgery at Duke is exceptionally rich in tradition, continually leading the way in progress, and I am proud to be a part of the continued legacy.
Have you been able to keep in touch with many former teammates/coaches?
Absolutely. We all share pics of the kids, and have lots of group texts. Rochelle Parent, Krista Gingrich, Lauren Rice, Missy West, Michele Maty (I can never spell her name - Matyasovsky), Vicki Pugsley (Krapohl) and I talk with very regularly and the others now and then. Lauren is our babysitter (or at least I am planning to drop my kids off at her house sometimes!!) I also thank Coach Goestenkors for giving me so much confidence, trusting me to be a leader, and demanding you to bring your best every time. GV (Gale Valley) and Joanne (Boyle) also keep in touch, they love seeing pictures of my kids.
One of the faculty surgeons during my residency once told me I was a good resident because I was used to getting yelled at! The leadership and the endurance have proved invaluable during my surgical training. Surgical training is hard, it's supposed to be hard, and there is no doubt I relied on knowing how to push myself and stay the course that I learned playing basketball to get me thru; not only to just get thru but to excel. I also keep in touch with Mychal Harrison, who was a practice player, and several other non-athlete friends from Duke.
Do you still follow DWB and watch games when they are on television?
I try as much as possible.
Since leaving Duke, who are a few DWB players you have enjoyed watching play?
Tricia Liston and Elizabeth Williams have been my favorite. I got to know Elizabeth some because she is interested in medical school.
Do you get a chance to play basketball any these days?
Unfortunately no, before I had Reid, the duke surgery residents and attendings would play once a week. I was usually the only woman. I had a lot of fun scoring on my chief resident or attending when I could (even better and of course accidental elbow:) Reid my six year old son is starting to get interested, he has made a couple of baskets on the real hoop and priority one when we move is putting a nice hoop in our driveway!
When looking back on your days at Duke, what are some of your favorite memories?
There are so many…I was fortunate enough to be a part of so many firsts for the program, first final four, first regular season and tournament ACC champions, first No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament and each one was truly special. My sophomore year, we used to do player led meditations/reflections once a week or so. Peyton Black had us close our eyes and pretend we were 20 years down road bringing our children to Cameron and being able to show them blue (women's banners). At that time, the women had NO banners yet. That year we went on the Final Four and championship game, and next year hung the first banner and then several more. Every time I walk thru Cameron, I look at those banners and remember how gratifying it was to be a part of such an incredible journey with those teammates and coaches.
My teammates also love telling stories about how intense I was (it was out of love guys:)) and a certain story where I demanded no one else dribble or do anything with the ball except just give it to me. (Of course I said it very nicely). In my defense we were the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament and almost lost to No. 9 seed and I was just not going to let that happen. Lauren likes to remind everyone she got all my rebounds (what rebounds? - in highlight videos I made every shot!). As you can see, when we all get together there is no limit to favorite memories.
How has a Duke degree helped you?
My three degrees from Duke :) have prepared me to be a leader in my field. The formal degree is of course important but the mentoring of faculty from undergraduate thru medical school and residency has been undeniably outstanding, the best, whatever superlative you can name.
You were involved in what is called CAPE program now. How much of a head start in the medical field did that give you?
The opportunity as an undergraduate to really see what a physician's life is like was very valuable. For me the most important thing now is to help the next generation of women coming thru, I am obviously thrilled and biased when a women's basketball player joins CAPE and get to work with them (Elizabeth Williams), but I am also thrilled to mentor Abby Johnston (Olympic diver) and others. So many people took the time to be so impactful for me that I feel the best "thank you" is to turn around and do the same thing for someone else.