Q & A: a First-Generation Medical Student Begins His Journey in Healthcare
New beginnings come in many forms. For some, including first-generation college graduate, Thomas Fisher, new beginnings include studying medicine and tackling new communities, new relationships, and a new lifestyle.
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A. My name is Thomas Fisher. I grew up on a small farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where I was raised in the Old Order Mennonite tradition and knew only a handful of people who had gone to college. In 2018, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Cedarville University in Southwest Ohio. My wife and I then moved to Lewisburg, West Virginia where I am currently a first-year medical student at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. I expect to graduate as a D.O. in 2022.
Q. What was being a first-generation college student like?
A. The transition to college was very difficult for me. Everything was new. When I arrived on campus, I didn’t know anyone within 100 miles, and my homeschool high school education hardly prepared me for the academic rigor at Cedarville University.
This new beginning taught me two very important lessons. First, God used the pain of the transition to teach my stubborn self that he is in control of my grades and my future. Second, the whole process showed that God can use me to trail blaze to any destination; in this instance as a first-generation college student. The new beginning at Cedarville prepared me in many ways for the new beginning in medical school.
Q. How has starting medical school been another new beginning for you?
A. Starting medical school has been a new beginning in several ways. First, studying medicine, not only the basic sciences, has rekindled my passion for being a physician and puts me one step closer to my goal. Second, starting medical school means moving to a new community, establishing new relationships, and starting a new lifestyle. It also presents us with a new set of challenges.
Q. What does your future ideal look like in terms of your role in healthcare? What are your plans for the future?
A. In the future, I see myself serving rural populations such as my Amish/Mennonite community in Pennsylvania or Hispanic communities in Central America. I want to play an active role in improving community health by improving healthcare systems and becoming the best physician I can be.
Q. How has your faith played a role in your career choice?
A. My faith plays a central role in choosing medicine as a career. Medicine is a calling, a place where I can use my God-given gifts and abilities to share the Gospel.
Not only does my faith impact my career choice, but my career choice impacts my faith. Pursuing a career in medicine is a sanctifying process. God has repeatedly proven himself strong in my weakness. The daily, difficult grind of medical school is a constant reminder of my dependence on God.
Q. You recently began a very successful Facebook Group, Anabaptists in Healthcare Professions. How did that come about? What is the purpose and goal of this group?
A. I started Anabaptists in Healthcare Professions to network, nurture, and support Anabaptists in healthcare, especially those with a more conservative background like me. It is a place for encouragement and discussion about issues we face. The inspiration to start the group came from my own experience of trailblazing my way to college. With this group, students and current healthcare professionals can find others who relate to the journey.
Another key function of the group is to facilitate mentor relationships informally, but also formally through a nine-month mentorship program. The program connects students and young professionals to more experienced individuals to actively support Anabaptists in higher education and professional careers.
Q. As you are facing the new beginning of med-school and exploring career options, what would be the most helpful things for experienced healthcare professionals to do for you and those in your same position?
A. If you are an experienced healthcare professional, you can help me in two big ways. First, you can send a quick word of advice or encouragement to myself or someone you know. Second and most importantly, you can initiate a mentoring relationship with a current student or younger healthcare professional. As an experienced healthcare professional, your valuable experiences and advice can benefit the younger generation.