June 23, 2017 — Second-year UF College of Medicine student Paul Campbell, 27, remembers the moment he discovered his passion for medicine with great clarity. The realization sent a jolt through his whole body.
Campbell was training for deployment to Afghanistan as a member of an amphibious reconnaissance reserve unit in the U.S. Marine Corps. When the time came to learn medical skills for combat, he assumed he would become squeamish working with live tissue, but it had the opposite effect.
“Those fears I had about not being able to handle it went away. I found I got a bigger adrenaline rush from saving a patient than from anything else I’d done thus far,” he said. “From the Marines, I learned how to persevere through suffering. I learned about going through hard times, being able to take it in stride and adapting to a changing situation, as it so often is in medicine.”
Campbell is able to continue his medical training at the UF College of Medicine in part through receiving the Cullen W. Banks, M.D., Scholarship Fund. The scholarship gives consideration to students who have demonstrated sensitivity to and understanding of racial and ethnic issues, and those with the ability to overcome educational, social and family disadvantages. The fund is named after the first African-American physician to gain full privileges at Alachua General Hospital. Banks passed away in 2013.
Campbell, who grew up in government housing in rural southern Georgia, looks to Banks’ example for inspiration.
“The achievements of Dr. Cullen Banks help put things in perspective for me. Back in those times, it was especially difficult for a black man to get where he did,” he said. “If I ever find myself thinking times are tough for me now, he helps me realize I have it a lot easier thanks to those who came before me.”
After his deployment and before medical school, Campbell worked as an emergency medical technician in rural Georgia. Working 40-100 hours each week on 24-hour shifts, Campbell quickly learned the subtleties of patient interaction, a skill set he uses in his current studies.
“There’s nothing like seeing a patient at their home, seeing their struggles firsthand,” he said. “As an EMT, I saw patients at their most vulnerable state. Interacting with them at that point takes compassion and gentleness.”
Though he enjoyed the work, he had a desire to do more. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University, he began applying to medical schools. He was overjoyed to receive acceptance from his top choice, the UF College of Medicine.
“Making myself of service to my fellow person has always been a focus of mine,” he said.
Campbell and his wife, Devin, welcomed their daughter Piper into the world in November, a few days before Campbell received his white coat. He says his classmates have also welcomed Piper with open arms, customizing a onesie so she can proudly display her UF College of Medicine affiliation.
“Piper is almost a superstar for our class,” he said. “That’s one of the top reasons I came to this school. There is such a feeling of community.”