A former Army combat medic-turned-disc jockey, 38-year-old Shermaine Hutchins knows how important a community college education can be on the path to a career. His time at Owens Community College in Toledo is a vital stepping stone to what may well be an Ivy League medical degree. Hutchins, who plans to transfer to Bowling Green and has Harvard and Yale in his sights, talks about how his path from DJ to MD led to Owens and what lies ahead in his future.
Q. Share a little bit of your background, and talk about how, in 2012, you made the decision to return to school.
I grew up in a single-parent household in the low-income area of Daytona Beach, FL. I served in the military as a combat medic for five years, which included a tour of Nicaragua where I was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. I also worked as a radio disc jockey for 10 years. My broadcasting career eventually brought me to Toledo, where I began thinking about my future as well as my family’s future. I knew that eventually, I would need to transition into a career that was long-term and secure.
Q. What affected your decision to attend Owens Community College?
Cost and convenience; when I decided to return to school, I had not yet filled out any financial aid forms, so initially I had to pay for my education out of pocket. The cost and payment options available at Owens allowed me to make monthly payments that were manageable. After obtaining my certification, I will look for employment at area hospitals as a nurse technician.
Q. How did you get interested in the medical field?
My mother was my first exposure to healthcare. She worked as a nurse’s aide for a large portion of my early years. When I enlisted in the Army National Guard, I knew I wanted to work in a field that would allow me to transition from military training to civilian employment.
Q. How did you hear about the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at Yale University?
By chance. As I became more knowledgeable about what is required to enter medical school, I realized that I would have to begin applying to summer research and/or enrichment programs to bolster my application and resume. My Honors Advisor, Dr. Russell Bodi, thought I should include top-tier programs in my search. I came across the program through a Google search. When I thought about Yale, Harvard and other Ivy League programs, I assumed that an older, low-income community college student would not be welcomed. I was wrong. Not only was I accepted as one of the oldest participants in the program, I also excelled. I was asked to moderate a Yale School of Medicine discussion panel and was presented with the “Outstanding Participant Award” at the closing ceremony of the program. I have made many lifelong connections with many Yale administrators, professors, physicians, scientists, and students. They all now serve as mentors helping me navigate toward becoming a physician.
Q. What “real world” experience have you gained while at Owens, and how do you plan to continue that once you transfer to Bowling Green State University?
I am currently employed as a cardiovascular nurse technician at St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee. I am vice president of Phi Theta Kappa, which will help provide funding toward my transfer to Bowling Green. For me, Owens allowed me to integrate myself into the learning environment without becoming intimidated by the younger students. I now feel fully confident that I will transfer to Bowling Green seamlessly and continue to thrive.
Q. Has the process of transferring your credits from a two-year school to a four-year school been an easy one?
Yes! I have been fortunate to have Owens advisors who were knowledgeable about my career path and maintained relationships with Bowling Green advisors. This allowed them to help me choose courses that would fulfill my requirements not only at Owens for my AS in biology but also at Bowling Green for my BS in biochemistry.
Q. What plans do you have after earning your bachelor’s degree?
After obtaining my bachelor’s degree I plan to matriculate directly into medical school. Again, I will be aiming for the stars, so Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and others can expect to see my application next year.
Q. What would you like to be doing in the next five to 10 years?
In 10 years I expect to be working as a physician scientist. I want to practice in a field that will allow me to travel to various countries that are in need of additional health care. However, my priority will be the underserved communities around where I live.
Q. What advice would you give someone considering returning to college as an adult?
Aim high! As adults, I believe we begin to lose our spirit of adventure and willingness to take chances. If you see a career goal for yourself, set up a plan and follow it. The world is a different place now, where nontraditional students are becoming the traditional students.
In May, Shermaine will attend an all-expense-paid conference at Harvard University before traveling to Bethesda, MD to begin an internship at the National Institute of Health (NIH). “Most importantly,” he adds, “I will be completing my final requirements for my AS in biology at Owens Community College via online courses.”