First-year medical student achieves childhood dream

After years of preparation and an unsuccessful application cycle, Skyler Child begins medical school with his brother, Nathan Child, beside him
March 14, 2022

First-year Texas A&M University College of Medicine student Skyler Child was about to finish middle school when he knew he wanted to be a doctor. His eighth-grade class was taking a group photo to commemorate their middle school graduation when he was hit in the finger by a pencil a classmate had carelessly thrown.

As the day went on, his finger continued to hurt and swell. That evening, he asked his father, a physician, to look at it. His father thought the finger might be infected and said he would reach out to some doctor friends in the morning.

The next day, Child went to school as normal but forgot his gym clothes at home. When his mother dropped his gym clothes off at school, she advised him to avoid eating and drinking anything for the rest of the day. He would be having surgery that afternoon to drain the infection from his finger—devastating news for a 13-year-old boy with a fear of needles.

During his prep for surgery, he remembers being overwhelmed and scared, just as any young child would be. That is, until his anesthesiologist walked into the room.

“I just remember him sitting down and talking with me, this really overwhelmed, hormonal child that just wants nothing to do with the medical system at this point in my life,” Child said. “The only thing I cared about was that my finger was hurting, I was about to have surgery and I was scared out of my mind. And he just really calmed me down.”

The anesthesiologist gave Child a mask with anesthetic gas and helped him count down from 10. He broke down the complicated process of anesthesia so that a young boy could understand it, which made the process seem less scary. With the reassurance from his anesthesiologist, he felt more prepared for surgery.

Child cites that interaction with this anesthesiologist—and not his physician father—as to why he pursued medicine. “He treated me with such kindness and such empathy,” he said. “It seemed like my life was ending. I was this teenage kid, and for me, it was a big deal. It made me realize I could do that for other people.”

Since that moment, Child has tirelessly prepared himself for medical school.

A long journey

Following his high school graduation, Child went on a mission trip to Sacramento, California, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He spent his days throughout the next two years serving his church. He had limited contact with his family, only getting 30 to 60 minutes a week to write one email home. While the experience may seem drastically different from his professional goals, he found that it prepared him well for his medical school journey.

“It taught me how to be confident in what I’m doing,” he said. “But it also taught me how to have that personal connection with somebody and to put yourself aside and focus your actions as if you’re living someone else’s life through their perspective.”

After his mission trip, he earned his bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory sciences from Weber State University, located in Ogden, Utah, in 2019. There, he was president of the medical laboratory sciences club and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. He also spent four years working as an anesthesia tech to gain clinical experience and scored in the 92nd percentile on the MCAT. During this time, Child also got married and started a family.

With all these accomplishments, he seemed like a near-perfect applicant. Yet, when he applied to medical school for the first time, he was met with disappointment. He had applied to 22 schools, received only one interview, and failed to earn an acceptance. He was out almost $3,000 in application fees, and he could feel his childhood dream slipping away.

“I had to sit and think, ‘Do I want to do this?’” Child said. “But I’ve been working toward this goal of medical school for a long, long time. I’ve been doing everything I thought I should do. It came to a point where if I didn’t attend medical school, I don’t know what I would have done because I didn’t plan for that.”

So, he refused to give up and decided to apply again.

“By everybody’s first glance, Child should have gotten in his first year. Whether it was school selection or essays or luck of the draw, he couldn’t get in that first year,” Child’s younger brother, Nathan, said. “But it worked out for the better because the following year we were able to work on everything together.”

Achieving a dream

Nathan, who is two years younger than Child, also chose to pursue medical school after he received his undergraduate degree. The two worked together on their applications—Nathan’s first set of applications and Child’s second—helping each other study for the MCAT and working on each other’s essays. They each applied to 30 schools, 25 of which overlapped. The latter included 12 schools in Texas, a long way from the brothers’ home of Ogden, Utah. This time, each brother received 10 interview invites. They were accepted to Texas A&M College of Medicine.

Child knew he wanted to attend Texas A&M after his admissions interview, where he felt that the faculty believed in him and his potential as a physician. His interviewer asked him why he didn’t get into medical school the previous cycle, and Child had truthfully answered he did not know. The next words of his interviewer’s mouth surprised him and made him feel like someone believed in him: “Well, let’s get you in, then.”

“When I had done other interviews, it was usually a feeling of, ‘Tell me what makes you special,’” Child said. “But to have my interviewer almost tell me, ‘You’re special,’ it meant a lot to me and played a big role in why I chose Texas A&M. And I’m so glad I did.”

His interview with Texas A&M pushed it to the top of Child’s list, but it was not the only factor he was considering when choosing schools. Not only did he care about where he got in, but he also hoped to attend medical school alongside his brother if possible.

For Nathan, the feeling was mutual. If the brothers got into the same school, that school would immediately jump to the top of their respective lists, Nathan said. “We would have the opportunity to support each other,” he added. “And I would get the opportunity to watch my nephew and niece grow up.”

Together, the brothers entered medical school at Texas A&M last fall. Child’s education is supported by two scholarships that have helped him focus on excelling academically: the Mary Elena Franklin-Class of 1981 Rapport Society Endowed Scholarship and Janell and Joe Marek ’57 Endowed Scholarship. They are both taking a heavy course load, covering topics such as medical gross anatomy and basic clinical skills. The brothers say the medical school experience has been hard and stressful, but that it is also quite rewarding.

Adding even more to Child’s busy schedule as a first-year medical student are the many demands of being a young father of two. When he finishes class, he comes home to help his wife care for their children, both of whom are under two years old. He spends the early evenings with his family and picks up the phone to study with Nathan primarily after his son’s bedtime.

“It’s been so meaningful to be together as a family,” Nathan said. “We’ve gone through some tough, stressful moments, but the fact that we have each other makes all the difference.”

In the next year, the brothers will enter their clerkship training—which can be in Bryan-College Station, Round Rock, Dallas or Houston­­. They hope to be placed at the same location so they can continue their medical school journey together.

After medical school, Child hopes to pursue anesthesiology, largely due to the influence of his anesthesiologist all those years ago. “I love anesthesia and being able to comfort someone when they are having this really scary time in their life and about to have surgery,” he said. “And I’m going to make sure they’re comfortable for this.”

Article written by Madison Semro

— Christina Sumners

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