Brian Fogarty

Brian Fogarty worked as a paramedic while pursuing his degree in biology. He graduated summa cum laude and is awaiting acceptance to medical school with plans to go into emergency medicine. (Photo courtesy of Brian Fogarty)

Medicine hardly seemed like a calling for Brian Fogarty when he was finishing high school in 2011.

“I was scared of crisis,” Fogarty said. “The sight of blood made me uncomfortable.”

But Fogarty has learned things about himself he never imagined over the past eight years and taken advantage of opportunities that weren’t always planned to bring him now to the cusp of that unexpected future.

He is awaiting acceptance to medical school after graduating summa cum laude with a degree in biology at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

“As long as I become a physician, I will be happy with any medical school,” Fogarty said. “The service aspect of it is what I really appreciate the most. It just gives me a great sense of purpose, being there for people during stressful times.”

Fogarty had been contemplating a career in the military when he graduated from North County Christian School. He enrolled at the University of Missouri–Columbia and planned to go through the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program as a step toward becoming an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

But those plans quickly crumbled. After living with his floor mates who were a part of the ROTC program, he realized that path wasn’t for him. He’d also had a difficult time adjusting to the rigors of college coursework.

“My first semester at Mizzou was definitely a wake-up call,” said Fogarty, who left Columbia after that semester and returned home to north St. Louis County.

He decided becoming a firefighter might suit him better, so he started preparing to apply to the St. Louis County Fire Academy.

Fogarty first had to undergo training as an emergency medical technician. He admits now he was nervous when he enrolled at St. Louis Community College to fulfill that requirement.

But something surprising happened when Fogarty landed a part-time job as an emergency department technician at St. Anthony’s Hospital in 2013.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s incredibly stressful, having the worst day of your life and being taken to the emergency department. I really appreciated being there for people. I find a sense of passion and purpose in helping others who are experiencing crisis.”

Fogarty graduated from the Fire Academy in 2014, but soon after, he decided working on an ambulance suited him better than putting out blazes. He sought additional training to become a paramedic, earning his associate degree in paramedic technology from St. Louis Community College in 2014 and additional certification from IHM Academy of EMS in 2015.

He worked full-time as a paramedic at SSM Health St. Joseph’s Hospital–Lake St. Louis and DePaul Hospital before being hired as a pre-hospital paramedic on a St. Louis Fire Department ambulance in 2016.

He was assigned to the 13th busiest ambulance in the country at the time, and the longer he worked in that role, the more he found himself drawn to a different direction.

“I felt that I could be doing more for patients,” he said.“I want increase my knowledge, help in a more meaningful way and lead in a greater capacity.”

That started him on his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, so he could apply to medical school and become a physician.

Fogarty pointed to affordability and the closeness to his home and job as the main reasons he decided to enroll at UMSL. He received a Purdy Emerging Leaders Scholarship through the St. Louis Scholarship Foundation.

It didn’t hurt that UMSL was part of the University of Missouri System, allowing his earlier credits from MU to transfer seamlessly, and that Fogarty also had several family members and friends who’d studied at the university and spoke highly of their experience.

Fogarty chose to major in biology figuring it would best prepare him for medical school and allow him to transfer most of his credits from his associate degree.

He enhanced his learning by getting involved in research in the lab of Xuemin (Sam) Wang, the E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor in Plant Sciences, in 2019. He studied diacylglycerol kinases and fatty acid signaling in plant stress response at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

“It was awesome being able to put into practicewhat I’ve been learning for the last four years as a biology major,” Fogarty said.

Fogarty did all that while continuing to work a couple of shifts per week as a paramedic and American Heart Association instructor at BJC Alton Memorial Hospital, gaining further experience and displaying a level of discipline and time management that will serve him well in medical school.

He took the MCAT last January and has applied to approximately 40 medical schools, starting with MU, Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University and the University of Missouri–Kansas City and fanning out across the country.

“It’s so difficult to get into med school,” Fogarty said. “I wanted to give myself the best chance and have a broad safety net.”

Wherever he ends up for medical school, Fogarty envisions himself remaining close to his roots in emergency medicine.

“I just remain calm under stress,” he said. “I’ve really learned how to do that well over the last seven years. During chaotic situations, I’m able to focus on what needs to be done and be there for the patient.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik