Georgia Beasley was one of the most impressive athletes to come up through the Duke University women’s basketball program. When she graduated in 2001, she was part of the then-winningest senior class in its history, with 111 career victories. Beasley was named ACC Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001, and her performance led her to be drafted into the still-young WNBA. But Beasley always knew her remarkable sports career would not be a lifelong pursuit.
Beasley left the WNBA after three seasons to pursue another passion: medicine. She became a surgical oncologist and researcher at Duke University, where today she leads clinical trials in the fight against melanoma. Host Frank Stasio talks with Dr. Georgia Beasley about the drive she showed on the court and how the skills she honed as an athlete translate into her work as a surgeon.
On learning to lead:
I did have to learn a lot about being a leader I would say … I think it's really easy for people to have self determination and really focus on their own improvement, but it's a much harder thing to all of a sudden realize that your teammates … Are really relying on you to set all those examples and to have that composure and calmness and yet still drive yourself and drive them. It's a real fine line to walk. And so I learned that, but I also had amazing mentorship and coaching along the way … I had some wonderful advisors and mentors that really helped me. And then my coach Gail Goestenkors — she’s a Hall of Fame coach now — she was just incredible … I did have ability and raw talent, but she really taught me to believe in myself and that I could be a leader.
On the pressure on WNBA players to prove something about women’s sports:
I think all the women in that league carry that pressure very proudly. There's not a night off. [I] mean those women play extremely hard every night … I couldn't believe — I was in training camp, and I came back for [Duke University] graduation, and I had two black eyes from training camp. And it was incredibly physical and incredibly competitive every day in practice, because again, it's a small league still. So it's incredibly elite. And people should really recognize that you're literally down to the top 100 women in the world. And so I think the women in general take that very seriously. And they work very, very hard.
On what sparks her research interests:
There's no doubt that the clinical observation is really the spark for a lot of different research. Almost all, when it comes to biomedical research. So as a surgeon, and someone that's taking care of these patients, not only do I know the disease, but I literally physically see the disease when I'm doing the operation. I'd see the tumors and see what they're doing. And so that naturally sparks a lot of interest in: Well how can we make this better? How can we do this?