St. Thomas’ Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) is already recognized as one of the best in the nation. It just added three more pieces of evidence why: Seniors Sam Gentle, Henry Larson and David Linn were all selected last month for the Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), an extremely selective, nationwide program that fully funds students’ four years of attending medical school.

To put into perspective how difficult it is for just one student to earn a scholarship: 24 students are selected annually from more than 2,000 commissioned officers, meaning St. Thomas’ “fair share” of recipients would be about one every five years, according to Lt. Col. Mark Madaus, commander of St. Thomas’ Detachment 410.

“To have three cadets selected in the same year is amazing and reflects positively on the cadets, the College of Arts and Sciences and Detachment 410,” Madaus said.

“To be totally honest, it is still surreal to me. I reflect daily on how grateful I am for all the support from my friends, family and faculty here at St. Thomas that pushed me to where I am today,” said Linn, who is majoring in chemistry with a biochemical concentration, and minoring in biology and aerospace studies.

Strong competition, strong preparation

Madaus said cadets are judged most heavily on Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores, as well as GPAs and how well they’re performing compared to other cadets in the program. Linn, Gentle and Larson’s applications boasted MCAT scores as high as the 90th percentile among all students nationwide.

Along with the countless hours of studying for the test itself, the preparation all three received in their years at St. Thomas made all the difference.

“The culture at the University of St. Thomas and at Detachment 410 have played a large roll in earning this scholarship,” said Larson, who is majoring in chemistry and minoring in biology. “Throughout my time here I have always been encouraged to excel by my professors, cadre and fellow cadets. When you’re surrounded by such a positive and inspiring environment it’s hard not to push yourself to give your very best. The professors and cadre here at St. Thomas and Detachment 410 are truly some of the best in the nation.”

“Working toward a chemistry major here at St. Thomas has prepared me so well for this scholarship and medical school once I graduate,” Linn said. “I owe my success to the dedication of everyone around me to help me succeed. The professors in the Chemistry Department prepared me academically to achieve what I have, and I am incredibly grateful. The other students and cadre at Detachment 410 have taken countless hours to invest in each of us to allow us to be where we are.”

“As a cadet, I’ve learned more in depth about the meaning of acting with integrity. St. Thomas has guided me in this domain, as well,” said Gentle, who is majoring in chemistry and biology. “Whether it be my liberal arts classes, my service learning focused classes, or my STEM classes, I have experienced the positive focus on how I can apply my knowledge and skills to the common good. Being able to see that I can apply what I learn in the classroom for the sake of others has really driven me to do my best at St. Thomas in preparing myself to become a doctor.”

Careers of service

AFROTC cadets who are selected for the HPSP program receive a full-ride four-year scholarship to attend medical school, and in return serve eight years as an Air Force officer and physician on active duty afterwards. Gentle said he is looking forward to “the opportunity to serve my fellow service members, their families and people of diverse backgrounds”; Larson looks forward to having “a direct impact on the health of those protecting our nation and far reaches of the globe.”

Larson hopes to dedicate his career in the medical field to helping those who are underserved, he added. “My ultimate goal is to become a primary care physician for a rural, medically underserved community. I was born and raised in a rural farming community in Wisconsin. One day I would like to go back to my roots and serve a community, like the one I was raised in, to serve those who don’t have accessible health care.”

Regardless of where their paths take them, Linn, Larson and Gentle’s fellow cadets and St. Thomas community members can celebrate everything they’ve accomplished in their time here.

“Air Force ROTC Detachment 410 is extremely proud of Cadets Gentle, Larson, and Linn, and grateful for the education they’re receiving at St. Thomas,” Madaus said. “Their experiences here will pay rich dividends in the future as they serve as military officers and members of their communities.”

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