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Owens and the Ivy League

Shermaine Hutchins hasn't taken the traditional path on his educational journey and that is exactly what sets him apart.

He began in the Army as a combat medic and then became a radio DJ in Tallahassee, FL. But he always knew in the back of his mind that he would one day return to healthcare. He eventually made his way to Toledo and worked for a local radio station. He came to Owens Community College in summer 2012 when he decided that it was time to put his focus back on pursuing a career in healthcare.

"I needed a place that was budget friendly and flexible, and Owens fit right in," Hutchins said.

During his first year, instructors noticed something different about him and encouraged him to find programs that would open up possibilities for his future. He succeeded in his coursework, and eventually joined the Owens Honors Program. A conversation he had with Dr. Russell Bodi, the Honors Program Advisor, changed the trajectory of his life path.

As a student who has aspirations of becoming a physician, Hutchins knew that participating in a summer enrichment program was necessary to become a competitive medical school applicant. He told Dr. Bodi of his intentions to apply to local universities, but Dr. Bodi asked him to consider some Ivy League options. Hutchins initially laughed at the idea but saw the seriousness of Dr. Bodi's suggestion. After careful consideration, he applied to Yale's prestigious Summer Medical & Dental Education Program (SMDEP) and was one of only 50 students across the country selected to participate.

He left his wife and young son at home for New Haven, CT to participate in the six-week program. As a part of the program, students select two of three advance science courses, which include Organic Chemistry, Genetic Biology, and Physics. Hutchins chose to take all three courses, something that hasn't been done in the 25 years of the program.

"I didn't know if I would ever have the chance to learn from Yale professors again, so I wanted to make sure I took advantage of every opportunity that came my way," Hutchins said.

As a 38-year-old student from a community college, Hutchins already stood out among his 20-year-old Ivy League peers. But donning his signature suit and tie attire to class helped his professors and administrators to quickly learn his name. Ultimately his class participation and academic intelligence caused them to take notice. At the conclusion of the program, he was awarded The Yale School of Medicine SMDEP Outstanding Participant Award and was recently asked to become an official ambassador for the SMDEP program.

"For me, this experience was nothing short of life altering. My views on what I am able to accomplish has been dramatically changed. I now know that I possess the ability to compete with any and all students regardless of his or her educational background or institution of higher learning," Hutchins said. "I owe a lot to my instructors at Owens for believing in me."

Since returning to Owens to finish his associate of science degree, Hutchins has founded the Pre-Health Professionals Association. In addition, he is organizing the Midwest Pre-Health Conference, which targets students who are interested in medical careers.

"Owens is set up for students to succeed. The smaller classes really provide a great chance to know and communicate with instructors, which is key," Hutchins said. "If you want to do something, anything, you can do it through Owens."

Hutchins future plans include graduating from Owens and transferring to a four-year college or university. From there, he will attend medical school with the goal of becoming a family medicine or emergency room physician.