Finding the Connection: The Healers

JoAnn Gometz
We continue our series of stories highlighting connections between Emma students past and present with physician Johane Gildade Boursiquot, MD ’97 and Meli N. ’23, a current student whose interests center around medical research and biomedical engineering. This is the final feature from the series, originally printed in the Spring 2022 edition of Signature magazine.



Although her career has sent her around the globe, Gildade still savors her time at Emma Willard. “I was having growing pains with my parents and was sent off to boarding school. At Emma, all I had to worry about was waking up and looking decent—not about boys, or any of that—just doing well in classes.”

She took full advantage of the opportunity, going on to earn her undergraduate degree in biology from Williams College, complete medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, and finish her residency in family medicine through NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. During the summers, she assisted in research at the NYU School of Medicine Skirball Institute, Harvard Medical School, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and as a National Institute of Health MIRT (Minority International Research Training) Fellow in Paris.

“My junior year at Emma Willard, I had a physics teacher who was wonderful and so supportive. She got me to take AP physics instead of biology or chemistry because she wanted me to take the best thing for my future,” Gildade explains. “She taught us what to do and took physics to a whole other level. She taught us the calculus, not the simple stuff.”

While her early studies may have been serious, Gildade’s time as an Emma clown (volunteering in nursing homes), track athlete, violinist, and coxswain on the crew team offered plenty of balance, which carried her through her college years. 

After completing her residency, Gildade volunteered to serve patients with HIV/AIDS and related conditions in Botswana and then turned her attention to urgent care and family practice in a variety of health centers throughout Queens, the Bronx, and the greater New York City area, primarily delivering care to underserved populations. 

In 2020, she opened her own practice in Manhattan with a focus on primary care and women’s health and wellness—offering Dr. B. on Demand telehealth visits as part of her core services at the height of the pandemic. Late in 2021, she spent several months working with the US Air Force to care for Afghan refugees temporarily housed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. 

“What makes me happiest is connecting positively with patients and making a difference in their lives,” Gildade says. “I’m a people person and very informal. So, when I speak to people, their guard comes down and they tell me what they’ve really been up to. We can address the issue that way.”

MELI N. ’23

That’s an interest Meli shares. The daughter of a thoracic surgeon and the chair of a pathology department (a former breast cancer pathologist), she made the leap from Albany Academy to Emma Willard her freshman year. “I’m stubborn,” she says. “I wasn’t thrilled about the all-girls aspect, but I was wrong!”

Last summer, her worlds collided. “I needed to do something productive for the summer and my mom is friends with Dr. Pilitsis, a fellow chair at Albany Med, so I was lucky enough to participate in the Next Gen Neuroscience Program. When it was over, I was able to continue working under Dr. Pilitsis and turn my lab work into my Signature project.”

Julie G. Pilitsis, MD, PhD, MBA, is the recently former chair of the Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics at Albany Medical College. She is now the Dean and Vice President of Medical Affairs at Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.Working with her, and with colleagues comprising college, graduate, and medical school students, Meli conducts literature reviews on neuromodulatory topics and assists in writing research manuscripts. In the process, she’s developed a deep interest in scientific research and how advancements in the medical field are made.

“I always thought that you have to be a doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse to work in a hospital,” Meli explains. “It’s been really helpful in planning my future to see how these people have so many different paths but wind up as peers and collaborators.”

The experience has increased her awareness of her own opportunities. “I interviewed a research coordinator in the lab for a Signature assignment,” Meli says. “I am still interested in going to medical school, but talking to her made me realize how pursuing a career in medicine is not a straight line, and that there are many ways to get there.”

As a result, Meli’s college plans have shifted with her interests. What began as an interest in biology with a pre-med track now leans toward, perhaps, something more nuanced, like biomedical engineering. 

“There are still a lot of commonalities between freshman me and me now,” Meli reflects. “In freshman year, I wanted to try everything that seemed fun. Now, with a focus on medicine, I want to align my interests. So I’m still the vice president of my class, but I am now a cohead of the MedTalks club and have started a chapter of HOSA Future Medical Professionals at Emma—these choices have helped me shape my high school experience to reflect what I am most interested in.”
Johane Gildade Boursiquot, MD ’97 and Meli N. ’23 share a common connection in their passion for medicine.

Johane Gildade Boursiquot, MD ’97 and Meli N. ’23 share a common connection in their passion for medicine.