Students Who Inspire: Kesha Levesque

PHD student Kesha Levesque
PHD student Kesha Levesque

Ph.D. student Kesha Levesque, RN, BSN, MBA/HCM shares what inspires her journey as a nurse scientist and how she’s motivated each day to use her research to change what’s possible for patients.

Why is nursing your passion?

I grew up in a community-oriented environment, and helping people was, and still is, a part of my culture. When people are in their most vulnerable states, it is often the nurse who can help patients move from illness to recovery, and if I can be a part of that journey, it brings me joy. As humans, we all go through something, but overcoming challenging moments shows growth, grit, and strength, which I saw the people in my community display.

What do you find most fulfilling about your work?

I get so excited when my patients finally get "the call" to report to the hospital to receive their organs. Patients have to wait several years before they receive a kidney transplant when no living donor is available, so when the wait is finally over, it brings me so much joy.

What have you found most valuable about your experience in MUSC’s Ph.D. program?

Mentorship and faculty availability. Faculty are always available to answer questions. If I need help understanding a concept, they take the time to explain it and provide additional resources that can help.

How has it helped you grow as a researcher and nurse scientist?

Mentorship has given me the confidence to ask the right questions and remain curious. As a researcher and nurse scientist, asking questions and being curious will help me understand my patients' challenges and be curiously creative in solving those problems.

What is your research focus and what are your future goals professionally?

My research focuses on disparities in kidney transplantation. African Americans are often less likely to be placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, and I am investigating what impact Social Determinants of Health have on rates of waitlisting for African American patients diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease. In the future, I would like to become a Principal Investigator to conduct multi-site studies across the country and secure funding to address the documented disparities in kidney transplantation. I also hope to one day have a significant role at the National Institutes of Health, namely the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Why is peer support and mentorship such an important part of your Ph.D. experience?

Peer support is critical when going through a rigorous PhD program like MUSC. My peers understand the challenges, and we have each other to lean on when the work gets tough. I would not be at this point in my journey without my cohort.

Best piece of advice you have ever received:

1. Take care of yourself! On an airplane, the safety features explained when you are flying say, "Put on your oxygen mask first before helping others." Taking care of yourself means eating well and building time in your day to decompress because it allows you to think. Being well physically and mentally will allow you to focus and give 100% of yourself.

2. Focus on one thing at a time. You cannot give 100% of yourself to each task if you are distracted by other things, so be present in the moment.

Interesting fact about you:

I love to dance, and I love food. I will try a good Mediterranean restaurant any day!