My Uncommon Path to Medical School

Before enrolling at AUC, Trey Kennedy conducted aerospace medicine research, worked in corporate strategy and operations consulting, and spent nine years in emergency medical services. Now a second-semester student, Trey discusses how his diverse experiences have helped prepare him for his future career as a physician.

By Trey Kennedy, 2nd-semester student

I reflected earlier this week on how far I’ve come from starting my undergraduate degree a full decade ago, to living in St. Maarten and attending AUC now. While many students begin their medical education straight from undergraduate institutions, a large portion of the student body at AUC are several years out of school. Many, like myself, have attended graduate school and have held other careers prior to matriculating into medical school. 

When I began my undergraduate studies in 2008, medical school wasn’t even a remote possibility in my mind. I was working towards an economics degree and had a part-time job in an accounting office for a small family-owned grocery store. It was during this time period that the Great Recession took place, throwing the United States economy into a tailspin. As such, many small businesses suffered and were forced to lay off employees. I was one of them. While many would have seen this as an obstacle to overcome, I instead chose to view this as an opportunity.

From a young age I had always been interested in two things: emergency medical services (EMS) and being an astronaut for NASA. As NASA wasn’t looking for freshmen business majors to work for them in my city, I decided to take an EMT course, and so began my love of medicine. While continuing to take college classes during the day, I also took EMT classes at night for a semester. Shortly after finishing the program and becoming certified, I took a job at a county EMS agency where I would stay for the next 9 years.

While many would have seen this as an obstacle to overcome, I instead chose to view this as an opportunity.

With the economic problems facing the country and a shortage of business-related jobs, I began to consider a career in healthcare instead. On a whim, I changed my college major to biology and began following the pre-medical curriculum. At the same time, I desired more knowledge and a higher level of responsibility within the realm of EMS. After giving it some thought, I went back to night school, this time to become a paramedic.

By the time that I graduated, I knew that I wanted to attend medical school, but I also knew that my grades were not competitive for admission. I decided to attend graduate school and continue working as a paramedic in the meantime. In an effort to maximize my resume, I pursued a broad education in both public health and basic medical sciences. Working towards two master’s degrees simultaneously over the course of two years was challenging to say the least, but ultimately gave me the foundation that I needed to become successful in medical school today. Over the course of my two years in graduate school, I had the privilege of conducting aerospace medicine research to explore emergency surgical options during long duration spaceflight, and completed my second childhood dream of flying with NASA on their zero gravity aircraft several times to test our experiments.

After finishing both my MPH and MS in physiology in 2016, I was discouraged to be waitlisted at a U.S. medical school, and ultimately not admitted. At this point, I contemplated giving up on my dream of becoming a physician. I took a position in corporate strategy and operations consulting for a Fortune 100 healthcare company, deciding that if I couldn’t be a physician I would remain in the field from a business perspective. I quickly discovered however that the insurance and business side of healthcare was not the same as practicing medicine. 

To those considering a career change, no matter your age, background, or experiences, I encourage you to consider AUC as well.

After reading about Hurricane Irma and the medical students on St. Maarten in the news, I began looking into AUC as an option for my medical education. I submitted my application in September 2017, interviewed in early November, and was accepted 2 weeks later for the May 2018 start date. Since coming to St. Maarten and starting at AUC, I have joined several student organizations and was elected to serve as a class representative by my fellow classmates. It has been a long journey, but I am now pursuing my final dream of becoming a physician. 

My business background in strategy and operations consulting taught me how to distill complex and often ambiguous issues into clear and concise ideas under tight deadlines. My background as a paramedic taught me how to interact and talk with patients, along with a host of clinical skills. Finally, graduate school taught me how to learn effectively at an advanced level and prepared me for the rigors of medical school. Success in medical school is attainable if you are willing to put in the work, and while my route was by no means direct or short, all of these factors have absolutely contributed to my success at AUC so far. To those considering a career change, no matter your age, background, or experiences, I encourage you to consider AUC as well.