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NewsMonday, May 13, 2013
Former English Teacher Earns Science Prerequisites at Tri-County; Has Been Accepted at Three Medical Schools
CONTACT: LISA GARRETT, 646-1506
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 5/8/2013
(By Lisa Garrett)
PENDLETON --- For 15 years, David Roper stood in front of the classroom, teaching high school students about English literature, writing and history. Most afternoons were spent mentoring and coaching student athletes.
These days he's still in the classroom, not in front lecturing, but sitting alongside other Tri-County Technical College biology and chemistry students, many of them working adults like himself, seeking new careers in the second act of their lives.
Roper says he hadn't thought about biology since he was an 18-year-old college student. But during a year of recuperation - and introspection -- following a 1996 near-fatal car accident, at the age of 25, the former Virginia teacher and coach began to refigure his life and his career. During the year of rehabilitation, he earned his master's degree in English education at the University of Georgia. Years later, in 2008, after paying off all of his debts, he enacted life changes that included quitting his job and moving to South Carolina.
He hasn't been preparing to teach science; instead, he's been working toward acceptance into medical school. He just completed his prerequisite classes at Tri-County this semester and for months has begun sending out applications to medical schools. He's been accepted at three to date -- the Medical University of South Carolina, USC-Columbia and Virginia Commonwealth University. He is on a wait-list at Duke University and USC-Greenville. He will make a decision soon.
Because he has an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia, he only needed science prerequisites to apply to medical school. He decided to earn them at his local technical college because of Tri-County's affordability and the chance to ease back into college with other non-traditional students.
"When I left teaching, it was time for a new season in my life. It was time to try something new. As much as I loved teaching and the students, I wanted a change. I didn't know where I was going but I moved on."
He relocated to the Clemson area where he had friends, got involved with the new Clemson Foothills Church and began driving a CAT bus. "It gave me a lot of time to think. I began taking the prerequisites two and one-half years ago," he said. Along the way he earned a nurse aide certification. Working in the emergency room at Baptist Easley Hospital and shadowing physician's assistants and doctors helped to solidify his decision to prepare for medical school. "It was awesome. I was really attracted to the depth of understanding that doctors have of the science of medicine," he said.
Making the transition from the arts to science wasn't easy, said the English major. "It's completely different. There's less self examination and more about investigation. I could plow through a novel in no time but it was taking me one hour to read four pages in a science textbook to truly understand it. It's been incredibly challenging. In the beginning I quickly realized I hadn't truly learned biology as a freshman at Virginia so it was all new," he said.
He's glad he chose Tri-County to earn those prerequisites in biology, chemistry, physics and organic chemistry. He's taken other classes in genetics and biochemistry and took a nutrition class at the Easley Campus.
"I've taken nearly every science offered at Tri-County. Instructors are prepared and engaging. They make science relatable and practical and understandable. The classes here prepared me for the Medical College Admissions Test (or MCAT, a four-hour standardized exam for prospective medical students)," he said.
"I'm a much better student today at age 42 than I was at 18," he said. "I'm disciplined and I work at it. My priorities have shifted. I'm more secure with myself and more focused," he added.
He's grateful for the Ruby Hicks Endowed Scholarship that he has received for the past three years through the College's Foundation. Prior to establishing SC residency, his first year of tuition was out of pocket, and since fall 2010 has received the Hicks Scholarship plus lottery tuition. This semester has been fully funded, he said. He's also maintained a job as patient liaison at Baptist Easley ER for the last year and a half.
Now that he has finished his last class, he will have to make a decision about choosing the medical school that's right for him.
"Doors have been opening," he said. "I used to choose not to open doors but I don't want to live life like that. My faith changed me over the last 18 years. Without my faith, I was making decisions that didn't require courage. The fact that doors aren't closing is confirmation that I'm moving in the right direction. I'm on the right road."