2021 Tillman Scholar

Danielle O’Neill

Military Spouse
Columbia University

“We must work towards creating a healthcare system that is equitable for all, and as a future nurse practitioner, I will lead the charge for equality and patient’s rights.”

Raised in a low-income family, Danielle knew at a young age that her mission in life was to identify and serve those left behind by an imperfect system. To save money, Danielle’s mother requested permission for her to accompany her siblings to a special summer camp for disabled children. It was here Danielle came to understand that underserved communities existed beyond economic circumstances. That summer, she helped campers with activities, guided them around the grounds, delivered lunches, and helped build an inclusive environment.

Over the years, Danielle sought out her passion in many forms and found fulfillment as a guide for visually impaired students, a volunteer with homeless youth, and as an early intervention therapist. With each experience, she knew she wanted to reach higher and challenge herself, which led her to pursue a career in medicine.Danielle began her medical journey at the National Outdoor Leadership School for a Wilderness Medicine semester. While training in the ER, she saw firsthand how ethnicity, race, religion, and socioeconomic status affected the quality of healthcare that Indigenous patients received.

Returning from NOLS, she knew that she wanted to become a patient-centered healthcare provider that combated the healthcare system’s biases and inequity and would thus begin her journey to become a family nurse practitioner. Danielle’s long-term goal is to build collaborative medical centers in underserved communities. To create a place where physicians, nurse practitioners, dietitians, physical therapists, social workers, and mental health counselors work together under the same roof to provide continuity of care to patients to improve their health and overall quality of life.