Student Spotlight: Jarod Tolbert

Jarod Tolbert posing for a picture
Jarod Tolbert

Class: Junior

Major: Canfield BHP

Topics of Interest: Multinational Corporations, Neurology, Paleontology, Healthcare

You’ve heard the phrase, “not all heroes wear capes”. This couldn’t be truer today given the facts on COVID-19. Healthcare workers are on the frontlines defending the rest of us from an invisible enemy and we need them now more than ever. As a top educational institution in the country, we must continue to produce the nurses and doctors that we need to keep the good fight going.

We’re interested to hear from some of our Canfield BHPeers who are gearing themselves up to be the future of our healthcare workforce – our lab coat heroes if you will. We caught up with Canfield BHPeer Jarod Tolbert, whose path in the program will soon lead him to medical school after graduating next May. Although he has many interests in science, his mind is laser-focused on the study of the human nervous system, neurology.

Jarod’s time here at UT and Canfield BHP has been spent prepping him for the moment he’s ready to take the MCAT. During his sophomore year, Jarod began taking pre-med classes that he felt would help him gain further understanding of the topics he’ll need to know eventually. Though, he admits there were times when he felt overwhelmed with classes like Organic Chemistry.

“You felt like you knew what you were doing but then when it came time to take the test, it was just overwhelming. It was manageable though.”

Jarod explained that there is no set path for most people interested in the medical field, but it helps to have friends with the same interests who support you along the way. “I started making pre-med friends, especially older friends and found out what I needed to do to get into medical school. I found out I needed to volunteer, shadow doctors, and work in a lab. Later, I started volunteering at St. David’s Hospital several hours a week during different shifts.”

Jarod explained that his motivation to pursue this path stems from two potentially traumatic experiences that he endured when he was younger. He explained that his little brother had to have several extensive ear surgeries as a child due to being born with a bad eardrum. “I was 7 or 8 and it was tough to see my younger brother in so much pain. It was intense and I felt helpless.” Then, when Jarod was in the eighth grade, he experienced a spinal injury while playing sports in school. Jarod had a herniated disc and another compressed disc on his spine. He was forced to quit sports after doctors explained that further injury could cause him to become paralyzed one day.

“I was a 13-year-old kid and it really scared me, but this also caused me to research a lot and got me interested in neuroscience. It fascinated me. The complexities of the nervous system in our bodies is amazing.”

Although Jarod’s goals are hinged on him becoming a neurologist, he is still on the learning path and understands that it can take him anywhere. He is open to other fields as he learns more about them. “My policy right now is to test different things that I’m interested in. Currently, the nervous system fascinates me but I recently shadowed a head and neck surgeon this past summer at M.D. Anderson who is one of the coolest and most awesome doctors I’ve had the opportunity to work with so I wouldn’t mind being that kind of a doctor either.”

The current COVID-19 pandemic has been top of mind for Jarod. It has heavily influenced his thinking about the type of medical path he wants to take moving forward. Unfortunately, it has also influenced when Jarod can take the MCAT. “I was supposed to the MCAT on April 4 but that got canceled. It’s all up in limbo at this point. I don’t know if I’ll be taking the exam in August either. Chances are I won’t be able to take the MCAT until next fall.”

It’s been a surreal experience for Jarod. “If I’m going to be a doctor one day, I’m going to have to deal with diseases and pandemics like this because the situation will call for every available doctor to help. For a guy that doesn’t like germs at all, it terrifies me. I’ve been very protective of my family. I bought hand-sanitizer in mid-February before everyone thought of doing so. I was ahead of the curve there. But this is an honorable field at the end of the day. These people are putting their lives on the line to help people and that is very inspiring to me.”

When he receives his MD., Jarod’s primary goal as a doctor is to give everything he has to help one person at a time. In general, his passion is to help people.

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