First-year medical student Hayden Hall stood in the breezy courtyard of UT Health Science Center’s Historic Quadrangle at noon Friday to be commissioned into the Air Force as part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). He was surrounded by a small group of classmates, several of whom are also members of the Health Professions Scholarship Program, along with his No. 1 supporter, his mom, Melanie Henderson.
It didn’t matter that the brief ceremony was organized by the students a few days ago or that the chairs were borrowed from Hall’s kitchen. His pride in being both a medical student, and now serving in the military as a second lieutenant, seemed brighter than the noon sun.
“My whole life, I’ve wanted to be a soldier, I just didn’t know what direction to go,” Hall said after the brief ceremony, during which classmate and fellow HPSP member, Jessica Smith, swore him in. “After college, I was able to go to medical school and fulfill that passion, but I still wanted to serve and now have found a way.”
The HPSP program is a service scholarship offered by the Army, Navy, and Air Force to students who attend medical and dental schools. If accepted, tuition, fees, health insurance, and other costs are covered, along with a monthly living stipend. Once school is completed, they pledge to work one year in the branch of service in which they were commissioned for each year they received the scholarship.
Second Lieutenant Smith, a first-year medical student from Kingsport, Tennessee, said she had helped Hall navigate the application process and was proud to preside over his commissioning. Holding the Bible for the oath was first-year medical student Ensign Gage Smith, from Sevierville, Tennessee, who is in the Navy HPSP program.
“In medical school, we focus on our classes,” he said. “We do a period of active-duty training at least once a year but concentrate mainly on becoming a doctor. After medical school, we serve as physicians for our branch.”
After watching Hall being sworn in, Henderson said her son “wants to serve.” Hall said his grandfather, an Army veteran, was his “biggest inspiration” to join the program.
More than 20 students in the Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry, and in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program in the College of Nursing are currently in the Health Professions Scholarship Program at UTHSC.