Student Spotlight: Liesl Piccolo Shifts from Entrepreneur to MEPN Student

Liesl Piccolo

Transitioning from being an independent business entrepreneur and midwife to enrolling in the structured curriculum of the UCSF School of Nursing’s Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) was a big adjustment for Liesl Piccolo, but she’d happily make that trade again. A self-described “lone wolf,” Piccolo says she has found a home at the School where she has developed a strong bond with her peers. Learn what inspired her to start her own business, why she’s interested in street medicine, and how powerlifting helps her relax.

Name: Liesl Piccolo

Age: 36

Hometown: Oakland, California

Program: MEPN

Specialty: Family Nurse Practitioner

What motivated you to apply to the MEPN program?

I have wanted to work in family practice since I was 22. I looked into the MEPN program in 2005, but instead went to a midwifery school in Vermont and became a licensed midwife. I attended out-of-hospital births for many years, but I knew that family practice remained on the horizon. When my daughter was about a year old, I decided I was ready to make the transition.

What has been the most challenging part of the MEPN program?

Going from being a fully functioning adult, entirely in charge of myself, to being less autonomous and beholden to a school program’s schedule and requirements. I really hate wearing a uniform! Also, transitioning from being an “expert” in my field to being back in a student mindset has been an adjustment.

What has been the most rewarding part of the MEPN program?

The people. I like to think of myself as a lone wolf and I showed up fully prepared to just do this on my own, but it turns out that wasn’t in the cards. My classmates are amazing. We have a really sweet bond and I genuinely want to see them all succeed. I feel like we’re rooting for and supporting each other rather than competing against each other – and I love that. And wolves are pack animals so… I guess I have that here.

What inspired you to start your own business?

Unsurprising to anyone who knows me, I like to be my own boss. I put myself through midwifery school as a financial consultant for small businesses. When I finished midwifery school and it was time to set up my practice, I realized I couldn’t let go of the financial consulting business. My relationships with my clients felt really important to me so my husband and I managed it together for many years. We had three businesses between us for a while.

How do you maintain a balance between caring for your family, managing a business, and keeping up with your studies?

I closed down my midwifery practice and financial consulting when I started MEPN. I promised myself a year to just focus on my studies before I considered working again. My strategy is to have a solid study plan and be all about time management. I grid out the entire quarter as soon as we get our syllabi, and my husband and I have a weekly meeting where we look at our schedules to talk about anything we need to plan for. I also take Sundays off (other than when there are exams) to be with my family, which helps me feel like I get a break and some focused time with them.

What are your career plans after earning your master’s degree?

First, I really want to work in street medicine. I would love to join something like the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Street Medicine Team. I think the harm reduction model is so important and I want to see it applied in all aspects of health care across all demographics. Also, I’d like to work on significantly increasing the number of underrepresented populations working in health care.

When did you start powerlifting? Why do you enjoy it?

I started powerlifting in 2014. I love how efficient it is. It is essentially three lifts: Squat, deadlift and bench—so you can get a lot done in a relatively short workout. It is heavy and sweaty and loud and impossible to be in a bad mood afterward. It also just looks and feels really cool to lift huge weights! I really haven’t had time to lift since starting school, and am mostly relying on running for exercise right now, but I hope to get back to it this spring.