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Gulf War Veteran, Tillman Scholar to Pursue Medical School

November 2, 2015 – Benjamin Bryant (G’17), Georgetown’s 2015 Tillman Military Scholar, was at West Point when his older brother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now he plans to go to medical school, focus on healing others and then rejoin the service.

“My brother was already a major in the Army and doing pretty well for himself when he was diagnosed with MS, and I saw this disease radically change his life,” Bryant explains.

He wanted to do something to help, but “at least for the next several years, my life path was already kind of set,” he says.

The 2007 West Point graduate would go on to serve as a field artillery officer in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division. Among the horrors of war, he watched one of his soldiers get hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Pull to a Path

“It was really bad. Many were injured, but I was struck how the medical community took care of everybody,” Bryant recalls. “I got back from Iraq, and I did very well in my job as an executive officer, but the pull to follow a path into the health care field was strong.”

Bryant entered Georgetown in 2013 as a graduate student in the School of Nursing & Health Studies’ health systems administration master’s program, but decided this summer to set his sights on medical school.

He put his graduate studies on hold to begin Georgetown’s post-baccalaureate premedical certificate program.

“It’s been a big change moving from my management background and health systems administration studies to the sciences,” Bryant says, “but I’ve been really impressed with my professors and classmates. I honestly pretty much dove in this summer taking biology and organic chemistry.”

Tillman Scholarship

The Pat Tillman Foundation recently recognized Bryant, treasurer for the Georgetown’s Student Veteran Association, as one of 60 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses to receive its prestigious military scholarship.

“I was honored to recommend Benjamin for the Tillman scholarship,” says Ryung Suh, associate professor and interim chair of the health systems administration department.  “He reads broadly, thinks critically and is preparing himself for a range of future contributions to the health care industry – as a clinician and as a health executive.”

Suh, who has taught Bryant, says the U.S. Army veteran embodies the spirit of Georgetown.

“[He’s] preparing himself to serve others in the world and constantly seeking opportunities for intellectual, spiritual and moral growth,” Suh says. 

Host of Honors

In addition to receiving the Tillman scholarship, Bryant has received a Bronze Star as well as a scholarship from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States: The Society of Federal Health Professionals.

Bryant is using the Tillman scholarship to pay for his post-baccalaureate studies. Once he completes the pre-medical program next summer, he hopes to return to his graduate studies in health systems administration.

“They say it takes about a year to apply to medical school,” he says. “I’m hoping that will allow enough time for me to finish my master’s degree.” 

After he finishes medical school, he hopes to re-enlist.

“I’m definitely interested in going back on active duty as a military doctor,” he says. “The Army has a lot of great options, and I’m really interested in exploring the neurosciences and the brain’s ability to heal and learn after being injured.”

Deployed to Baltimore

A troop commander in the Maryland National Guard, Bryant was deployed to Baltimore last spring after protests erupted in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death this past April.

Gray died after injuries sustained while in police custody and mass protests ensued along with volatile civil unrest.

“We got sent to Baltimore right away. We were one of the first unit’s there,” said Bryant, who was in command of about 95 soldiers tasked with keeping the courthouse area secure.

“The vast majority of the citizens there were so nice,” he said. “They brought us a ton of food. There were the occasional people there who yelled at us or called us names. I just really got a chance to see a part of Baltimore that I had not seen before. It really opened up my eyes to poverty in the U.S.”

Suh can relate to the military experience, having served as a task force surgeon in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I consider Benjamin a great success story, and I am looking forward to his accomplishments in the years ahead,” he said.