VA program helps veterans transition to medical careers
First recipients of Veterans Healing Veterans Scholarship named
By Margaret Gregory, Margaret.Gregory@uscmed.sc.edu
Two members of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia Class of 2024 are bringing unique perspectives as they train for their future careers in medicine. Before entering medical school, Ian MacLeod and Shane Weatherford served their country in the United States Armed Services. Both are able to pursue their education thanks to a program that helps veterans transition to medical careers.
MacLeod, who is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attended UofSC after graduating from high school in 2010.
“I didn’t give it the attention I should have at the time and lost my academic scholarship,” he says. “I was a bit lost after that, until my father suggested I consider the armed services.”
MacLeod decided to join the Marine Corps and served four years as an infantry rifleman, with two tours of duty overseas. After his military discharge, he attended Robert Morris University, earning his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2020. He then decided to follow his dream of becoming a doctor.
“Before I joined the Marine Corps, I always knew I wanted to be a physician, helping people and making a difference, continually trying to do something good with my life,” MacLeod says. “Serving in the Marine Corps, witnessing the rescue of starving African refugees, really helped cement that decision for me, making it more concrete for me.”
Weatherford grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, a small town of just 1,200 residents near Rochester. He served nine years in the Air Force with duty in Italy, Iraq, South Korea, Qatar and Germany, as well as stateside in Texas, Georgia and Wyoming. During his service, Weatherford taught English to Korean orphans and helped build low-income housing in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After leaving the Air Force, he attended the University of Colorado, earning a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering in 2019.
MacLeod and Weatherford are recipients of the Veterans Healing Veterans Scholarship. The University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia is one of nine programs across the country in the pilot scholarship program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Participants receive full tuition along with a stipend as they seek to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree. The program is designed to develop a pipeline of health care providers who have a unique understanding of veterans’ needs while addressing the long-term staffing needs at Veterans Affairs medical centers.
After graduation, residency and board certification, each of them will dedicate four years of practice at a VA medical center.
Joshua Thornhill, M.D., associate dean for medical education and academic affairs, touts the scholarship as a way for the School of Medicine to recruit outstanding veterans to the program.
“Because we are located on the campus with the VA Medical Center it allows them close contact with the veterans they will be serving,” he adds. “They are already leaders with a wealth of experience who, once their medical training is complete, will continue to serve and provide care to our nation’s heroes.”
MacLeod already had a strong connection to South Carolina having attended his first year in college at UofSC. He also met his wife at UofSC, and his sister attended the university as well.
“It has a special place in my heart, and I always wanted to come back,” he adds. “Whether it was fate or God, with UofSC offering this scholarship and my history here, I felt like it was meant to be.”
Weatherford had never spent time in South Carolina, although his grandfather grew up in Latta, South Carolina.
“Turns out I have a whole bunch of relatives here and that’s why I applied to the School of Medicine,” he says. “I was on a wait list to attend school at the Mayo Clinic, but I took myself off the list after learning about the VHV Scholarship. That solidified my choice to come here.”
During his service, Weatherford sustained multiple injuries while overseas that led to reconstructive knee surgery.
“I am also a patient at the VA, and that allows me to understand what my patients are going through,” he notes. “I know the difficulty that many veterans face in getting access to prompt patient-centered health care.”
MacLeod and Weatherford both share an interest in pursuing orthopedics as a specialty. They agree that they have a different perspective entering medical school as older students.
“We have seen other places,” MacLeod says, “and that gives you a different view of the world. You don’t have the same opportunities elsewhere as you do here, and I don’t want to squander that opportunity. We are blessed and we want to make the best of it.”
Banner image: Ian MacLeod (left) and Shane Weatherford are recipients of the Veterans Healing Veterans Scholarship.
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