WKU graduates in Medical Center inaugural class share their aspirations

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Natasha Breu

The early August White Coat Ceremony marked the start of the UK College of Medicine Bowling Green campus. Seven WKU graduates joined the inaugural class which included 23 other students coming from several different states.

The UK College of Medicine opened a Bowling Green campus due to lack of physicians in rural areas of Kentucky and to provide opportunities for students not able to attend other campuses, according to Don Brown, director of medical education at the Medical Center.

Four of the seven WKU graduates recently expressed their excitement, expectations and experiences as they started their four-year journey at the Bowling Green campus.

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Dixi Secula is a 23-year-old WKU graduate and first-year medical student whose main concern surrounds the lack of physicians in rural areas. Having grown up in the small town of Burkesville where it can take months to see a physician, she said it was important to ensure everyone has access to medical care.

Secula believes that students who attend WKU and go on to attend the medical school are more likely to stay in southern Kentucky, building up a community of physicians in rural areas.

After seeing her father struggle with medical issues growing up, Secula’s goal is to be involved in family medicine. The defining moment that led her on her path to become a doctor was in her teenage years when a farming accident caused her aunt to lose her left arm.

“I want to be able to be in a rural area, and Bowling Green I felt like was just the best place for me to be,” Secula said. “It’s home.”

As one of the first students attending the new medical school, Secula said the ceremony was amazing due to the community involvement and the support everyone had.

Her advice to pre-med students is to believe in themselves. The hardest thing is to get through some of those classes where you’re not sure why you have to take them. She said the biggest reward is getting into medical school.

“Don’t give up on your dream,” she said. “It’s a long, long road, but it’s definitely worth it.”

Enes Atici is a 22-year-old WKU graduate originally from Turkey, and his family moved to Bowling Green in 2001. He said at the time he didn’t know any English, but the community in Bowling Green was still welcoming. A professor housed his family for a few weeks until they were able to find a place to live.

“It’s always been my end goal to give back to the community of Bowling Green,” Atici said. “Being a doctor has been one of those childhood dreams when everyone asks you when you’re 5 years old, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’”

He said he plans on being an orthopedic surgeon, but knows that it could potentially change when third-year rotations start, allowing him to get experience in different specialties.

Atici’s reason for wanting to be an orthopedic surgeon comes from him playing soccer while growing up. Atici said he’s grateful to soccer because it broke down his language barrier and allowed him to have fun on the field.

He stressed the importance of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and advised pre-med students to dedicate four-to-six weeks studying for it to make sure they’re prepared. He also said there’s nothing wrong with taking some time off for yourself.

“Most of the students in our class have taken one if not multiple gap years,” Atici said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no normal track.”

Katherine Citak is a 22-year-old WKU graduate from Somerset with a passion for science. She said ever since her junior year of high school when she took AP Biology, she knew being a doctor was what she wanted to do.

Citak said her high school also had a program where students could shadow a doctor. She said it was a good opportunity to put the idea of wanting to help others with her love of science.

A typical day for Citak includes lecture from 8-11 a.m., a short break, studying until 5 or 6 p.m., dinner, then studying until 10 p.m.

“We study a lot, but it’s not miserable because it’s interesting,” she said. “I think, anyway. It sounds weird, but I like med school.”

Citak said she likes how personable the staff at the medical school is and said the reason she attended UK’s Bowling Green campus is because she was wanting to feel close with her classmates and didn’t want to feel ‘lost.’

“All of the staff knows every single one of us by name,” Citak said.

She said she likes being part of the first class at the medical school because the staff is learning right alongside them trying to build the culture of their small community.

“We’re not trying to be competitive or one-up each other,” she said. “I feel like we’re more encouraging to each other.”

Citak is also looking forward to hands-on work with patients and getting to take a break from reviewing material all day.

Luke Gaskin is a 22-year-old WKU graduate who prefers the sense of small community that the medical school has to offer. He grew up in Russell Springs with a population of about 2,500 people and noted lack of physicians.

“Building a community in south central Kentucky of physicians who, hopefully, will stay in south central Kentucky is very important for the future of the state,” he said.

Gaskin said he’s unsure how to feel about being part of the first class of the medical school because he doesn’t know if it’ll be easier or harder on his class.

“We are the test subjects.” he said. “We’re figuring it out as we go.”

He said he doesn’t think the school is structured competitively, but they do have a pass or fail system and their assignments aren’t based on letter grades.

Gaskin said he feels like there’s so much material but he’s excited to expand his knowledge as he goes through the next four years.

“In four years from now, we’re gonna look back and say, ‘Wow, you know, I knew nothing then,’” he said.

News reporter Natasha Breu can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow Natasha on Twitter @nnbreu.