Your Style: Amelia Van Handel

Amelia VanHandel JMS0114.jpg
Amelia Van Handel


Music plays a vital role

Amelia C. Van Handel: Her prescription for medical student style

Motto: 'Professional' doesn't have to be boring!

Second-year Mayo Medical School student Amelia Van Handel pairs music and medicine, involved as a vocalist in the community and studying surgery at school.


"To me, music is medicine," she said. "It helps to keep my life balanced and my mood positive."

Van Handel grew up in Little Chute, Wis., and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"I became interested in science early in life, even though my parents are not in science fields," she said. "They were very supportive of my goals to be in a scientific field, and I decided in college that the best way to combine my interest in science with my interests in people was to pursue a career in medicine."

Outside of school, Van Handel volunteers at Rochester Better Chance, sings with pianist Jane Belau (subject of a past Your Style feature) and the Gonda Singers and goes dancing at Blue Moon Ballroom.

"My parents exposed me to music early on through piano lessons," Van Handel said, "but I didn't really start singing formally until high school, when I joined choir and performed in musicals."

"In my experiences, singing in Gonda, I have met people like Jane and other Mayo employees who still make time for their passions," she said. "I have also had the chance to meet and get to know patients as people, independent of any of their medical concerns, and that, to me, is the best part about it. It reminds me that medical school is not just about the next big test or what rotation I have coming up, but about the people who will one day trust me with their health and the well-being of their loved ones."

How do you describe your style?

I have a very classic style with a wardrobe full of mix-and-match staples. I prefer a clean silhouette and pieces that can stand the test of time, but I use accessories to help me individualize my look.


What are your preferred accessories?

I like delicate gold jewelry and bracelets and earrings with subtle color. I also have a thin gold watch I wear almost every day.

Is your style inherited, learned from peers or a confluence?

Most of my style was an imitation of my mother, who works in business and has always looked very put together. Many of her clothes translate well from professional to casual, and I have tried to create a similar wardrobe.

But my younger sister has actually had a very positive influence on it lately. She has a more colorful and personal style, and I have been trying to emulate that through accessories and mixing color with my neutrals.

Has your style graduated as you have moved from, say, college to medical school?

Absolutely! As I have progressed through my education, my style has definitely become more professional. I own more suit separates and shift dresses now than I do pairs of jeans!

How specifically does your style reflect your role as a medical student?


Being at Mayo has certainly influenced my personal style because there is a certain expectation of professionalism from medical students, even when we are not in the clinic. On a student budget, it is also important that my "Mayo wear" have application in my weekend clothing so I can do more with less.

What do you consider most essential to the well being of your wardrobe?

Shoes! My shoes need to be practical enough to walk around the hospital, but I love a great pair of heels or heeled boots.

What should every well-dressed woman also have in her wardrobe?

A good pair of dark wash jeans, a classic black dress and nice watch.

Do you have a favorite piece of clothing?

A cream-colored lace cocktail dress that used to belong to my mother. It is classic, unique and has a history.

I first wore it to a dance in high school, and it was really the first "vintage" clothing I had ever worn. Since then, I have worn it to dinner parties, performances and weddings. I think it is good to have a go-to formal dress that isn't black, just to give yourself options. It is actually something of a traveling dress — my sister has it right now because she needed a dress for a banquet. But I will be sure to get it back!


Is there an item in your wardrobe people would be surprised to know you have?

I have a Snitch (from Harry Potter) necklace that I made from a gold bead and some silver wire. It looks professional, but it is a real conversation starter!

Favorite color to wear?

I wear a lot of neutrals mixed with gem tones such as teal, dark green or magenta.

And one that you do not like?

As a redhead, orange is not my friend.

Best thrift shop find?

I bought a brown leather bag from a rummage sale 10 years ago for a dime; I am still using it today. Now that is a low cost-per-use!


What is your prescription for combining or exchanging wardrobe items to make things go farther on a medical student budget?

Having a lot of neutrals certainly helps. I also work with layering to give the illusion of a larger wardrobe; putting a long-sleeved blouse under a sleeveless sheath dress, and then next week combining that same blouse with a pencil skirt, or dressing it down with jeans, a leather jacket and boots. I try to buy a lot of basics — button down shirts, silk blouses, fitted jeans, A-line skirts — that can be interchanged, rather than loud pieces that only work with each other.

Do you see a Rochester, Mayo Clinic or Mayo Medical School style?

Rochester is largely a community of professionals, but because Mayo attracts such a wide diversity of individuals, that professional style is injected with so many different cultures and personalities. I love to see people put their own twist on the Mayo professional dress to remain true to themselves.

Any thoughts or advice you would like to prescribe for a healthy style?

Professional doesn't have to mean boring, and budget doesn't have to be a barrier. Rochester is full of thrift and consignment shops that are a great way to build a wardrobe of unique, interchangeable pieces.

Do you know somebody who's got special style? Send nominations to or call Life section editor Jeff Pieters at 507-285-7748.

Anne Murphy is a Rochester freelance writer who has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years.


Amelia Van Handel

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