Spring 2017 UCF Graduate
Austin majored in biomedical sciences and minored in leadership studies. He is a National Merit Scholar, LEAD Scholar, The Burnett Honors College member, president of the UCF Pre-Med American Medical Student Association and recipient of the 2017 Order of Pegasus.
Student Development and Enrollment Services asked Austin the following questions:
***Where were you from before coming to UCF?
I was born and raised in Helena, Montana, which has a population about half the size of UCF.
***What made you decide to come to UCF?
As a National Merit Scholar, UCF was able to offer me a wide variety of benefits that I did not find at other universities. Specifically, I was drawn to the small classes of The Burnett Honors College, the community outreach of the LEAD Scholars Academy, and the ability to conduct meaningful, interdisciplinary research. I wanted to choose a university that would help me make an impact in my community and would also prepare me to attend medical school, so UCF was a natural fit for these goals.
***What impressed you the most when you visited the campus?
When I visited campus, I was most impressed by the friendliness of everyone I met. Coming from a small town, I was worried that people would be more closed off than I was accustomed to, yet everyone I met was smiling and seemed incredibly happy with their decision to attend UCF. The university also appeared to have a personal interest in my success as a student and I felt that I would be supported throughout my four years of undergrad.
***How did you come to the conclusion of your passion to what you wanted to major in?
From high school I knew that I wanted to become a physician, so I wanted to choose a major and college that would support my application to medical school. I found that The Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and the biomedical sciences major specifically, covered a lot of clinical material. I knew that these courses would prepare me for medical school and allow me to conduct meaningful research that I am passionate about. In fact, I currently conduct research in the field of nanotechnology, investigating potential clinical applications of cerium oxide nanoparticles.
***Did you get involved while you were here?
I was actually the president of the Pre-Med American Medical Student Association at UCF, in addition to serving as a director for the previous three years.
***Did you utilize SDES while you were here?
I occasionally used Student Academic Resource Center resources for my more difficult classes and felt that the instructors were often able to explain the material in a way that complemented the professor’s lecture. I also used the Recreation and Wellness Center to keep in shape. With a difficult course load, maintaining my health was vitally important and the RWC was a great way to do that.
***Tell me briefly about your UCF experience these past 4 years...what are some of the things you were involved in/highlights?
The most important gift The Burnett Honors College has given me is a sense of community. When I first came to UCF, I didn’t know anybody and I was worried that I would get lost in the hustle and bustle of college life. However, the honors college gave me a “home base” from which I could branch out and explores what the rest of UCF had to offer. Most of my friends are members of the Honors College and we remain close to this day despite being in very different majors.
Another program that was crucial to my development during my first two years at UCF is the LEAD Scholars Academy. I was able to put those ideas [leadership theories] into practice throughout the program. This experience has proven incredibly useful as I pursue a career in medicine and the LEAD Scholars Academy also helped me connect to the greater Orlando community. During my sophomore year my LEAD Scholars projects were focused on social justice issues so I spent much of my free time volunteering at a food share for local homeless individuals. One night, when I was serving food and generally helping out, I approached a well-dressed man who was enjoying one of our meals. I started talking to him and he began to tell me how his losing his job overturned his life. However, he remained ever hopeful, talking about how he was searching for jobs and trying to reconnect with his children despite losing everything. Before I knew it, over an hour had passed. As I drove home that night I found myself replaying our conversation in my head, trying to figure out why this one conversation stood out from the hundreds of others I heard during my time volunteering. Then it finally struck me, for the first time I had truly listened to what he was saying without trying to interject or relate. I simply listened. You ask any physician for advice on what makes a good doctor and they’ll all tell you the same thing: listen to your patients. That night at the food share showed me exactly what it takes to truly listen. That experience single-handedly changed my outlook on my role as a healthcare provider, and shaped my dreams of becoming a doctor.
I also found support amongst my pre-med peers in the Pre-Med American Medical Student Association, or Pre-Med AMSA. I attended a number of events through this organization, including many volunteering events, medical school tours, professional development workshops, and even had the opportunity to travel to five national conferences with the financial support of the university. I have found that UCF is very supportive of its students’ endeavors, which allowed me to experience opportunities that many other people may not get, such as meeting the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy.
More highlights found at: http://honors.ucf.edu/spotlight.aspx?id=11047.
***Was there something that you very much appreciated at UCF?
I appreciated that the university supported my dreams. Going to medical school is a lofty goal and I always felt that UCF provided an abundance of resources and assistance to make sure I felt confident in my ability to reach these dreams. I felt that everyone with whom I interacted was actively invested in my success, which helped me achieve my highest aspirations. I also appreciated my professors. Every professor I interacted with was passionate about teaching even though they were also conducting groundbreaking research. These professors became my mentors and I am incredibly thankful to them for everything they have done these past four years.
***Future plans after graduation?
I will be attending the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine this fall. I am not sure what specialty I will pursue after graduating from medical school, but I am excited to continue my medical career in Baltimore.
***If you could talk to other future students who are entering UCF, what would you say?
If I could give any advice to future students, it would be to find your passion and work incredibly hard to achieve your goal. UCF has an abundance of resources available, but you need to work hard and put yourself forward to take full advantage of everything this university has to offer. If you do that, you can achieve just about anything.