In medicine and the military, students find their calling.
Evan Stern ’16 MD’20 has been living the sleepless, fast-paced lifestyle of a physician since he was in high school. Back then, he was a volunteer firefighter, routinely waking in the middle of the night to respond to emergencies. Now, he’s on the cusp of medical school—and a career in the US Army.
Stern, of Oradell, NJ, says his path to medicine, and the military, was a natural one. At age 16, he became an emergency medical technician with his local volunteer ambulance corps. “I was really enjoying being an EMT, and after Hurricane Irene, the river flooded near my hometown,” Stern says. “I was stationed on one side, at the Oradell firehouse, and the more I saw what the firefighters were doing, the more I wanted to be doing it.”
A year later, he was volunteering with the fire department, and setting his sights on a career in medicine. “The firsthand clinical experience I had convinced me that I could do this for the rest of my life,” he says.
Military service also called to Stern. He started the admissions process at the United States Military Academy at West Point, but after learning that only 2 percent of West Point graduates matriculate at medical schools, he decided to go a surer path. “I knew I could join the military later,” he says. “Being in medicine is what was really important to me.”
West Point and Brown—with its Program in Liberal Medical Education and the open curriculum—seem like polar opposites. “I like being able to do as I please,” says Stern, who majored in biology as a PLME. “I’m not quite sure how that fits with military service, but I’m attracted to giving back to the country that gave so much to my family.”
In May, during Commencement weekend, Stern accepted his ceremonial commissioning as a second lieutenant in the US Army. Joining him on the podium was a fellow PLME, Uzoamaka Okoro ’16 MD’20.
Both Okoro and Stern are recipients of the Army Health Professions Scholarship. They will attend the Basic Officers Leadership Class the summer after their first year at Alpert Medical School, and participate in the military’s residency match in their fourth year. They will then enter active duty, practicing their medical specialities as Army officers.
Okoro, a public health major from Darien, IL, says her mother, a Veterans Affairs nurse for 20 years, inspired her to consider a career in medicine and the military. “I had considered military service prior to high school, but I was unsure about what form of service I could best contribute,” she says. “This scholarship will allow me to become a highly skilled and disciplined physician who has the honor of treating individuals and families that have sacrificed so much on behalf of others.”
As an undergrad, Okoro completed a public health honors thesis examining the relationship between HIV, alcohol, and sexual risk behaviors in Nigeria, and was a star on the rugby field for the Bears. She says she’d like to play for a US national team and the women’s Armed Forces team.
Stern is also thinking about the future. The self-declared “space buff” says, “Someday it would be amazing to be a physician for NASA.”
Now he and Okoro are busy preparing for their transition to Alpert Medical School and the Army.
“I am reflecting on all the hard work my family and I have done to get to this point, as well as all the people who have supported me throughout this process,” Okoro said at the commissioning ceremony. “I have grown so much over the last four years in knowledge, confidence, and strength. I came into Brown feeling a bit like I didn’t truly belong here, but standing here today, I feel like I’ve conquered it, knowing that I have taken on any challenge thrown my way.”