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Rachel Price Bell, clinical scientist, and Ronda Price Brinley, anesthesiologist

Twin sisters never far from success or each other

By Greg Rappaport

Growing up in Merrillville, Indiana, twins Ronda and Rachel Price were good students and solid outside hitters on the volleyball team, though they weren’t sure their athletic careers would extend past high school. Neither of them received much college scouting attention.

Then they got a call from Matt Peck, the head coach of the University of North Alabama Division II women’s volleyball team. That call set the course for the paths the women would follow – not only as student-athletes, but also as professionals in the medical field and even as sisters and friends.

Ronda Price Brinley is now an anesthesiologist in Fort Wayne, Indiana – a tension-packed job in which she can’t help but draw upon her college experiences of performing under pressure.

“Obviously it’s a bit of a different kind of pressure,” Ronda said of anesthesiology. “But it’s always helped to make quick decisions because you can’t really waffle much when you’re under pressure.”

And Rachel Price Bell, now a clinical scientist in West Lafayette, Indiana, who coordinates studies for new medical devices, credits her student-athlete experience for many of the skills she uses in her profession.

“I think everything you learn in sports – the competition, the relationships, the wins and losses – it kind of defines your personality and allows you to use those skills in the workforce,” Bell said.

The year Bell and Brinley arrived at North Alabama the volleyball team was coming off of a disappointing season. With the help of several other skilled freshmen, they helped turn around the program, which ended up having one of its most dominant seasons in school history. “Their freshman year we beat the No. 1 team in the country, Central Missouri, at Central Missouri,” Peck said of the memorable 1996 season.

But while the twins’ powerful spikes and deft sets on court drew plaudits, their drive in the classroom set them apart from many of their peers. Peck, now the head volleyball coach at Middle Tennessee State University, described them as “hard-working, driven kids – and very athletic.”

By the time the sisters, who were roommates in college, wrapped up their playing careers at North Alabama, they had selected separate paths for their careers, and both of them chose to return to their home state. Bell headed to Purdue, where she received her doctorate in biomedical engineering, and after graduation she accepted a job offer from MED Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana, where she still works. Today she is married with two children.

Bell enjoys her job because she gets to communicate with many different people – something she was unable to do in a laboratory setting. She is also appreciative of the impact the work has on other people. “It’s very exciting to know that it helps patients,” Bell explained. “It’s very gratifying.”

Meanwhile, Brinley attended medical school at Indiana University, though she completed her first two years of medical school on Purdue’s campus. Her choice to start at Purdue allowed the sisters to continue playing volleyball together even after their student-athlete days were over at North Alabama.

“We got to play club-level volleyball for the two years that I was there and our team made it to the finals both years,” Brinley recalled.

Both women were inducted into the North Alabama Athletic Hall of Fame in September 2011. When Brinley looks back at the sleepless nights prior to exams; the long bus rides between tournaments; and the ups-and-downs of competition, she can’t imagine doing it without her sister by her side.

“Playing with Rachel was great,” said Brinley, now a mother of four. “I realize now that I have kids how nice it is to have an automatic best friend wherever you go.” 

Biography

Rachel Price Bell, clinical scientist, and Ronda Price Brinley, anesthesiologist
Hometown: Merrillville, Indiana
Current City: Bell: West Lafayette, Indiana; Brinley: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Education: Bell: Bachelor’s degree, University of North Alabama; doctorate in biomedical engineering, Purdue University. Brinley: Bachelor’s degree, University of North Alabama; doctorate in anesthesiology, Indiana University.
Sport: Volleyball
Fun Fact: Brinley says Bell was the better student, graduating as high school salutatorian and first in her class at North Alabama. “But I’ve been in the top 10,” Brinley said. “I’m OK with that.”