May 16, 2018 — In a few short days, fourth-year UF College of Medicine student Tyler Culpepper will add two very important letters to his name: M.D. Add that to the Ph.D. he received in 2013, and Culpepper is well on his way to fulfilling his dreams of becoming a clinician-scientist. He says he couldn’t have made it this far without the help of scholarship.
Culpepper is a recipient of the UF College of Medicine’s Lawrence M. Goodman Scholarship, the Thomas and Emily Maren Scholarship and the Chapman Service and Humanity in Medicine Award among other merit-based awards. He says receiving these scholarships has inspired him to pay it forward later in life.
“The scholarships were very important to my livelihood. I did not seek nor expect financial help from my parents for medical school, so the cost was all on me,” Culpepper says. “In years to come, as I close out my remaining loans, I would be delighted to continue the payment into a scholarship for another young student with a circumstance similar to mine.”
Culpepper’s journey toward a career in science and medicine began as early as his days in middle school when he realized his passions for chemistry, anatomy and physiology. He combined his scientific interests with his love for people, and his career path was decided.
“Being extroverted and seeing myself in a job where I would be interacting with people, the most logical intersection between the two was health care,” he says. “Throughout college, I volunteered in a dental clinic, worked as a pharmacy technician and shadowed physicians. From these experiences, I felt that I would fit best into the physician role.”
When Culpepper entered the UF College of Medicine in 2014, he found a community of classmates who shared his interests and passions. When he looks back over his last four years, the times spent caring for patients and getting to know his classmates remain his fondest memories.
“My most notable experiences here are the day-to-day privileges of caring for patients and observing their improvement,” he says. “My best memories involve extracurricular activities with classmates who are close friends. We would all meet after a test to decompress and enjoy our time together at bars or restaurants downtown, take day trips to beaches, complete adventure races, or have extravagant brunches and BBQs in our homes.”
Ever curious and inquisitive, Culpepper feels at home in the laboratory. His research on topics like intestinal bacteria, dietary fibers and probiotics has appeared in publications more than a dozen times. He has presented his findings at conferences and symposiums in locations like Denver, San Diego and Montreal. In the future, he aims to pursue a fellowship in gastroenterology and continue in the field as a physician-scientist.
For now, Culpepper will continue his studies and research at UF as an internal medicine resident. He says UF has taught him several valuable lessons, one of which is, “This too shall pass.”
“I’ve learned that perseverance is key. Stay focused, be mindful of the present and trust that the future will come,” he says. “Life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy what’s around you throughout the process and make the experience for yourself that you desire.”