Kerry Gonyeau, who graduated in May, is taking the knowledge she gained at Texas Tech to the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.
Children explore many careers during their adolescence. One day, they're imagining themselves as astronauts flying into outer space. The next, they're veterinarians fixing their stuffed animals or a doctor taking care of sick dolls.
Recent Texas Tech University graduate Kerry Gonyeau, a Winnsboro native who majored in animal science through the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, never imagined pursing a medical career until a fateful night her freshman year changed her mind.
"I didn't really want to go into medicine originally," Gonyeau said. "My very first semester at Texas Tech, I was in the hospital for a night because I had a really bad ear infection. When I there, I was like, 'Wow, this is kind of cool. Maybe I should do this.' Then, I shadowed a doctor after that and fell in love with the whole aspect of medicine. It changed my entire perspective."
Military family leads to military medicine
Gonyeau's family has been involved with the military for three generations. Her grandfather was in the Air Force. Her father, Al, and her mother, Nancy, both are retired captains in the Army. Her brother, Ryan, is an E-4 Specialist in the Army, and her uncle was in the Army, too.
Once Gonyeau had set her mind on pursuing medicine, she knew which direction she wanted to take.
"I immediately started thinking that military medicine would probably be the best for me," Gonyeau said. "I've been exposed to the military aspect because of my family. In the summer of 2018, I was able to complete an internship at the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research. I shadowed a lot of Army physicians while I was there, and it really set in stone that this is what I want to do."
With her decision made, Gonyeau applied to medical schools in Texas, including the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Her top choice, however, was the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS), an extremely competitive and difficult university to be accepted into, located in Bethesda, Maryland.
"There are 171 students who are in the matriculating class, and more than 3,000 people apply," Gonyeau said.
After Gonyeau applied, she was granted an interview. After the interview she had to wait patiently for a phone call from the Dean of Admissions to see whether she'd been accepted. Eight months after submitting her application, her phone rang.
"I was in my genetics class when I noticed my phone was ringing," Gonyeau said. "The caller ID said Bethesda, Maryland. I answered it in class and started running up the stairs really awkwardly. I started crying a little bit when I heard the dean's voice. He said, 'I have to tell you something. You've been accepted to the Uniformed Services.'
"It was really awesome. I called my parents, my mom started crying, and I was crying. The waiting was awful, but I am so excited."
Time at Texas Tech
Gonyeau came to Texas Tech as a Terry Scholar and resided in Murray Hall with the other scholars. She considers the camaraderie gained while living there as one of the most important aspects of her time at Texas Tech.
"I feel like I definitely met my best friends here," Gonyeau said. "Since I had to live in Murray Hall, having that network of people already, it made it feel so much more homey than if I would have started out on my own. I remember being in the dorms late at night, talking to friends and having a good time. I just have this huge sense of family from Texas Tech University. Walking around the campus, it's just like home to me."
When Gonyeau first came to Texas Tech, she initially considered majoring in animal science with a meat science concentration, but soon switched to the pre-medicine concentration. She believes majoring in animal science prepared her for her future medical career.
"I honestly feel like, since I studied animal science, I got a lot more hands-on experience than most people," Gonyeau said. "I did research with cattle and I got to see things most students don't get the opportunity to see."
Gonyeau also was able to work on a research project with Dominick Casadonte, a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, trying to modify a nitrogen-rich compound.
"I worked with a compound called phenanthroline," Gonyeau said. "It's a three-ring compound that has two nitrogen atoms on it. Whenever one of the nitrogen atoms becomes bound to something else, the remaining nitrogen doesn't react with anything else. So we were trying to figure out a way to have both of the nitrogen atoms react at the same time.
"I worked on that project for two years. We were able to modify it to form epoxides, which was sort of a breakthrough. But the research is continuing without me since I'm leaving."
Commissioned into the Army
Though Gonyeau's parents never pushed her to join the military, her father was moved when she was commissioned.
"When someone is commissioned into the military, that means that he or she is now an officer in their respective branch," Gonyeau said. "I was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in April by my dad. I didn't realize how much it meant to him until he was talking. He started to tear up and told his friends, 'I never would have thought I would commission my own daughter into the military.' That was really touching, and an honor for me and him."
Now that Gonyeau's officially commissioned, she'll begin basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in July.
What to expect at the USUHS
The F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at USUHS is located on the same installation as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. According to its website, USUHS features an extensive year-round curriculum that focuses on medical science, disease prevention, health promotion and leadership training that is nearly 700 hours longer than those found at other medical schools in the U.S.
Gonyeau noted that there are two different routes students interested in military medicine can take.
"You can either do the health professions scholarship where you go to a civilian medical school but the military pays for you to go," she said. "Then, after medical school, you go into the military active duty. The route I'm taking is the uniformed services, which is so much different than the health professionals scholarship because military medicine is integrated into the curriculum and students are active duty throughout the four years of medical school.
"We have to do training exercises where we go out into the field and people pretend they've been shot or wounded and we have to know what we're doing. I think it prepares you to be a better officer. It also prepares you for what you might see if you're deployed one day."
Instead of wearing typical scrubs while working rounds, Gonyeau will wear her military uniform. She also has to take a physical fitness test twice a year.
"The physical fitness test consists of a two-mile run, two minutes of pushups and two minutes of sit-ups," Gonyeau said.
Picking a specialty
There are many specialties medical students can choose, like plastic surgery, trauma, pediatrics and obstetrics. Though some students know what specialty they want to pursue, Gonyeau is still weighing her options.
"I've thrown out a lot of different ideas," she said. "At one point, I thought infectious diseases would be cool. Then, I thought emergency medicine was cool. General surgery is really awesome, too. So, I have no idea right now."
Gonyeau will figure it out, though. After an initial 18 months at the campus in Bethesda, she'll move to military medical schools for different specialties.
"I'll start rotations at different military installations across the United States," Gonyeau said. "I could be in Washington state, or I could be in Hawaii. There also is a base in Texas where I did my internship, down in San Antonio, so I could be there.
"I'll alternate, and it's like a three-month stint here, three months there. The whole traveling part of the military is integrated into the university, too."
Gonyeau has to commit to seven years of service after her residency. From there, she can choose to stay in the military or go into civilian medicine.
"I feel like I'll probably make it my career to be in military medicine," she said, "but we'll see what happens once those seven years are over."