By Lauren Ely
Sporting a 4.0 GPA while graduating with a degree in pre-med biology, former All-Sunshine State Conference women’s tennis player Anna Hallbergson-Lewis embodied the ideal of the NCAA Division II student-athlete.
Even more impressive, Hallbergson-Lewis obtained her Ph.D. with English serving as her second language.
A native of Skovde, Sweden, Hallbergson-Lewis grew up playing both soccer and tennis competitively. She ultimately decided to stick with tennis.
She began playing tennis at age 8 after she went with one of her friends to a summer class at a local park. After the class, she wanted to keep playing, and she signed up to take classes for the summer.
Soon, Hallbergson-Lewis joined a tennis club and was playing five or six days during the week. She knew she wanted to continue her tennis career and would have to go college in the United States to do so.
“In Sweden, if you want to continue to play your sport, it becomes rather difficult because there’s nothing through the education (system) to do that,” Hallbergson-Lewis said. “For me, tennis provided an opportunity to try to continue to play tennis while also seeing another part of the world and continuing my education as well.”
Without knowing much about any of the schools or cities, Hallbergson-Lewis began applying to colleges in the U.S. She spent one year at Miami Dade Community College in Miami before transferring to nearby Barry.
Hallbergson-Lewis was shocked by the the culture change when she moved to Miami.
“Miami is obviously very different than Sweden, both weather-wise and the type of people who live there,” Hallbergson-Lewis said. “For me it took a while to get used to playing tennis in 80 and 90-degree heat all year round because that was very different than what I was accustomed to.”
Not only did she have to learn a new culture while adjusting to the scorching Miami heat, she also needed to perfect her English.
In Sweden, Hallbergson-Lewis learned English to a less-than-comfortable extent at age 12. In college, she found she had to pay more attention to what her professors were saying than what was being taught.
“I had to spend extra time with reading in science and English,” Hallbergson-Lewis said. “Fortunately, I figured it out pretty quickly.”
Though English presented challenges, tennis provided a universal understanding.
Hallbergson-Lewis twice was recognized as an all-conference honoree and helped the Bucs to a 1998 conference championship. She paired a 31-28 spring dual match singles record with a 44-29 doubles mark.
In 2000, she graduated from Barry and went on to Chicago Medical School where she completed a program for a combined master’s and Ph.D. in 2007.
After medical school, Hallbergson-Lewis moved to Boston to begin training through the Harvard system. She has completed two years in pediatrics medicine and now three years of pediatric cardiology experience at Children’s Hospital Boston where she treats children with heart defects.
For all of her accomplishments, Hallbergson-Lewis was named to Division II’s 40th Anniversary Tribute Team – an honor recognizing former student-athletes whose lives reflect the core values of the Division II student-athlete experience.
Hallbergson-Lewis plans to stay in Boston for another year and then work in Philadelphia for an additional year of training with her husband, Michael. The couple met at Chicago Medical School, and Lewis is currently finishing his fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in cardiothoracic surgery.
After the couple completes their training, they hope to move back to Hallbergson-Lewis’ home country with their 3-year-old daughter, Elsa. Hallbergson-Lewis wouldn’t mind if Elsa followed in her footsteps and played tennis.
“She has some tennis racquets at home in the living room that she keeps wanting to play with,” she said. “She seems pretty interested. That would be really fun.”
Thinking back on her time as a student-athlete, Hallbergson-Lewis is happy and proud to be recognized with the Division II honor. She said her time as a student-athlete prepared her to succeed in her professional life.
“You’re pretty well prepared for those kinds of demands once you’ve been a student-athlete, especially in Division II schools because they expect you to perform in the classroom as well,” Hallbergson-Lewis said. “You have to really master time management in those circumstances, and you have to learn to be efficient with your time.
“It’s nice to know that people remember and recognize stuff that you did during that time. I felt very honored that they were thinking of me as the one who represented what the division stood for and what they were hoping to accomplish with student-athletes.”