Even as a student at GPS, Darria Long Gillespie ’96 championed her own causes and defied stereotypes. Today the ER physician, author, health expert, wife, and mom is driven to impact healthcare, the lives of her patients, and the health and well-being of moms everywhere. GPS gave her the confidence to take on challenges and she’s never backed down from one.
While in Upper School, she juggled AP courses, clubs, musical talents, and sports. In retrospect, Gillespie appreciates that GPS always accommodated her needs for learning, making certain AP courses available when they otherwise wouldn't have been offered.
“Now as a parent looking for the right school for my children, I ask how individualized their education will be,” Gillespie says. “When GPS didn’t have a program or class in place and had students who wanted to pursue that particular course, they made it possible.”
She fondly recalls taking an AP course at McCallie School (GPS’s brother school), and a one-on-one AP Spanish class. Combined with her hard work, that individualized attention led to placing sixth in the nation in a Spanish competition.
Healthcare, Business, and Media
Gillespie finished GPS and was accepted out of high school to med school, which she boldly interrupted with an MBA from Harvard. Her ability to take risks and go above and beyond is still seen today. As a national health expert appearing on broadcast programs as Dr. Darria, she got her start in media while working in the ER during the swine flu epidemic. Eager to educate the public and help people avoid the long wait times in the ER, Gillespie took to TV news. That led her to national programs, including The Dr. Oz Show and on networks such as HLN and CNN.
She attributes her belief in herself and confidence to take on great challenges to GPS.
“GPS gave me the message that if I was capable, they believed I could do it,” she says. “I had teachers who made learning fun and brought content to life.”
Gillespie appreciates that while at GPS a student could be a scholar, an athlete, and a debater. Girls were never pigeonholed and were always encouraged to try new things. That message—the ability to be more than what is expected of you—sticks with her today.
“When I was at GPS, I learned to have a voice and not be afraid to use it,” Gillespie says. “I saw women in all roles—athletes, scholars, pranksters, and leaders. That’s what we were taught to expect
Gillespie’s current project, as author of her first book Mom Hacks, enables her to share positive messages with moms. Using her network of the best minds in medicine, behavioral economics, and psychology, Gillespie compiles everyday hacks intended to make moms’ lives easier and healthier without a guilt trip or another to-do list.
She approaches every challenge—whether going to business school from medical school or writing a book for moms that turns old adages on their heads—as an opportunity to turn the figurative tide.
“GPS encouraged me to be a multi-hyphenate person—in art, in athletics, in leadership, in math,” Gillespie says. “I was in a safe, nurturing environment where I was constantly challenged and where the idea of doubting myself was not an option. It’s hard to find that balance, and GPS got it right.”