Former soldier heads to medical school

Adam Henderson graduated from UMSL in May with a bachelor's degree in biology. He's heading to medical school and plans to be a team doctor with the U.S. special forces.

Army veteran and University of Missouri–St. Louis alumnus Adam Henderson says combat medics were in short supply during his two tours of duty abroad. It’s what prompted him to earn a paramedic license while he was a soldier.

“Maybe I should learn how to provide aid for a gunshot wound,” Henderson said he thought after considering the “horrors of kinetic warfare.”

But his medical training only went so far.

“I experienced a friend’s death [during a deployment] and was unable to assist,” Henderson, 28, said. “I realized I needed more medical knowledge.”

That’s when he zeroed in on medical school. Between his two tours – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – Henderson researched how to fulfill his goal. And after completing six years of military service, he immediately enrolled at UMSL, where he graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

“I love UMSL and would tell anyone to come here,” he said. “You get a top-tier faculty who are actively involved in research, but make time to mentor you.

He credits his military experience with giving him the maturity and work ethic to get the most out of college.

“If you are an active student here, it’s a huge advantage. The faculty will help push you further and provide guidance,” Henderson said. “I committed a lot of time here and just started falling into stuff.”

That “stuff” includes improving the mentoring process and serving as a dedicated pre-health advisor to freshmen and sophomores.

“Getting into medical school is not a hand-holding experience. My job (as a mentor) was to provide a more streamlined resource for students seeking out help,” he said.

Henderson applied to 10 medical schools and accepted an offer at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. The commissioned officer said he planned on returning to the military and signed on for 14 years of service – four for medical school, three for residency and then seven on active duty.

His plan is to be a team doctor for the special forces.

Henderson keeps his skills sharp as part of Team Rubicon, an international rapid relief organization made up of medical professionals and veterans. In May, he joined a team in Joplin, Mo., to assist the emergency response teams already there.

“It was a great experience to help. I was awe struck by the destruction there. Everything was just leveled,” Henderson said.

After a six-week orientation, he will head to medical school this fall – a destination 10 years in the making.


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