Every big accomplishment is a series of smaller experiences and lessons you learn along the way.
As a general surgery resident at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, my journey to become a doctor didn’t start in medical school. It started many years earlier when I first walked into the Boys & Girls Club in Savannah, Georgia, as a 7-year-old kid.
Character Skills for Life
Before I became a Club kid, my brother and I had never participated in organized sports. Living on a military base and used to moving frequently, my mom signed us up as a way to stay active and meet more kids. My first experience at the Club was playing on a basketball team. I thought we were just shooting hoops — while in reality, I was learning to come out of my shell, make friends and develop talents I didn’t know I had.
I started to learn teamwork skills I still carry with me today: knowing when to lead, when to let others shine, and understanding my role as part of a whole. These skills I learned at the Club have been invaluable. A hospital isn’t filled with just doctors; everyone has a role to play.
When my dad was reassigned to a military base in Germany as I was entering high school, I got involved at a Boys & Girls Club-affiliated Youth Center near the base that became a lifeline in so many ways. Continuing to play sports there and travel to different places in Europe helped me build my confidence and learn to adapt to any situation.
At my Youth Center in Germany, I participated in an early work program as a ninth-grader, interning at a local library, learning the business, the responsibilities of having a job and earning a paycheck.
They also helped me prepare for college — serving as mentors, reviewing scholarship applications and entrance essays, helping with SAT preparation and lending practical advice and a listening ear when needed. My network and programs at the youth center in Germany are part of what made my big dreams possible.
After graduating from high school, I moved back to the United States, attending both Morehouse College and then medical school at UCLA on a full scholarship. Throughout those eight years, I participated in Army ROTC, being fortunate enough to attend rigorous training at the US Army Air Assault School, travel around the world, and ultimately graduate as a second lieutenant.
In my ROTC days, we were told to guide those younger than us. The philosophy was “each one, teach one.” That’s something I’ve tried to continue since others have poured so much into my life at the Boys & Girls Club and elsewhere.
In medical school, I’ve found opportunities to talk with underserved communities in LA about health and mentor students from a local high school interested in medical careers. I’ve also had the chance to share my story with Club kids. Today, my mom is on staff at a Club at a military base, bringing our story full circle. I talk with kids at her Club and tell them there’s no one way to do anything. There are so many opportunities to achieve your goals. Just stick to a plan and don’t give up.
Great Military Doctors Start Here.
Today, 3 in 4 kids say they don’t have the skills to secure a job, while an overwhelming number of employers believe candidates lack essential character skills, like judgment, problem-solving, creativity and adaptability. But research shows when we introduce young children to the world of work, they’re more likely to dream big and connect what they’re learning to future career opportunities.
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Did you know that 1 in 16 people living in America has been a member of a Boys & Girls Club like Marquis? If you’ve ever been a Club kid, join our free alumni community to connect to ongoing opportunities, events and each other. Learn more and become part of the Club after the Club.