First-semester AUC student and First Generation MD Award recipient Jonathan Barney
As part of a special series, we’ll be taking a look at some of the recipients of the First Generation MD Award, a scholarship awarded to entering American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) students striving to be first-generation physicians within their immediate families.
For first-semester AUC student Jonathan Barney, the journey to becoming a physician at AUC all started with a single phone call.
It was from his stepmother, calling to tell him that his father was in the ambulance, on his way to the emergency room at a nearby hospital. Jonathan’s father didn’t have the healthiest of lifestyle habits, and years of eating fast food, coupled with high cholesterol and blood pressure, had taken a toll.
“It turned out that my father’s gallbladder had ceased functioning—had, in fact, shriveled up and died inside of him,” writes Jonathan—a California State University grad originally from Escondido, CA—in his First Generation MD Award essay.
Another ER Trip, But This One Was Different
Things turned out OK after surgery, until something else happened two years later. Jonathan’s father was again heading back to the emergency room, but this time was different. He was showing stroke symptoms—slurred speech and weakness on the right side of his body. Jonathan writes that the stroke was linked, again, to hypertension and high blood pressure.
“I was much more frightened going to the hospital this time, as I was concerned he could have permanent neurologic deficits, leaving him with poor quality of life,” Jonathan writes.
He clearly remembers sitting with his father in the hospital room and telling his dad one thing—that in terms of his lifestyle habits, things needed to change.
Jonathan and his family, including his stepmother Ruth (above, from left), his father Neil, his mother-in-law Joanne Reilly, and his wife, Megan.
Jonathan’s dad is okay now, after rehabilitation and initiating positive lifestyle choices. The only lasting aftereffect of his stroke is a slur in his speech. And Jonathan admits that his father probably should have taken action sooner to take care of his health, but a big part of the problem, he thinks, was a lack of proactive health education.
“My father is an intelligent and hardworking person, but sadly had not been given adequate education in maintain his health,” writes Jonathan. “He had very little knowledge about the inner workings of the human body.”
Solving Health Problems Before They Happen
The experiences with his father, coupled with Jonathan’s own work in the emergency room (he was an ER tech for five years before he started med school), made him realize that there’s a great need for leadership and guidance in the healthcare sector. And by becoming a physician, he reasoned, he could help fill that need.
“Becoming the first physician in my family will allow me to not only follow my dream, but also to serve those who are most in need,” Jonathan writes.
Doctors solved Jonathan’s father’s health problems after they happened. But in Jonathan’s own career as a physician, he wants to do more. “My goal is take my career one step further than that, by emphasizing preventative medical practices with my patients and actively engaging with local communities,” he wrote.
Plus, it would make his mother and sister proud—both women, by mentoring and guiding Jonathan through childhood to adulthood in different ways, had instilled a love and respect for higher education that he still holds today.
Jonathan, his wife Megan, and their baby daughter, Adelyn, on campus in St. Maarten.
“I am confident that I can take the love of learning and motivation to pursue excellence that my mother and sister
instilled in me and share it with others,” Jonathan writes.
He also credited AUC’s admissions team—specifically Jamie Miller, senior associate director of admissions—for encouraging him to share his story.
“I wouldn’t have even applied for the scholarship if not for the encouragement I received from Jamie,” Jonathan says. “The AUC staff and faculty have been very supportive of my journey, and I hope that my story may encourage others coming from similar circumstances.”
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Posted February 22, 2016 10:18 AM