At the age of 15, Josh Sawyer ’03 unexpectedly performed CPR on a neighbor until first-responders arrived. It was this moment that catapulted his interest in medicine. Today, Sawyer is an ER physician at Eastern Carolina Emergency Physicians in Wilmington, N.C.
His trajectory has been one full of highs and lows. Volunteering with EMS throughout college, attending Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, taking a year off from medical school to be a math teacher, five years of dual training in emergency medicine and internal medicine at the University of Illinois for his residency, working in Ethiopia in an HIV/AIDS clinic, and spending time at an emergency department in Uganda. These he describes as his highs – those defining moments which confirm his decision to pursue the medical field.
Yet it is also those moments he experienced at NC State and as a Park Scholar that contribute to who he is now. He speaks of getting to know his classmates during the Park Scholarships freshman retreat in the mountains of North Carolina, the excitement of attending basketball and football games, and his whirlwind study abroad trip traveling to Nepal, Egypt, Austria, and Guatemala in the summer of 2001.
The Park Scholarships program provided him the opportunities to grow and learn as a person. Sawyer says, “It gave me the confidence to challenge myself. It eased the financial burdens of going to college, which allowed me to volunteer as an EMT and study abroad, rather than worry so much about how I was going to pay for school. I was surrounded by a network of brilliant minds, [which] allowed us to learn from one another. I had access to faculty members and mentors that changed my outlook and allowed me to look at the world from a different perspective.”
To all current and future Park Scholars, his advice is this: “Take full advantage of your time at NC State. The time is precious and very short. Travel abroad. Challenge yourself. Take the hard classes. Get that double major. Get that minor in music or Spanish or beekeeping. Take scuba diving and get certified. Join the Student Wolfpack Club and go to a bunch of games. Make sure you tailgate. Find a professor who inspires you and ask [them] about doing an independent study. Run Service Raleigh or the Krispy Kreme challenge. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. There is always more to learn. Solve problems together. Be kind to each other.”
“And finally, have fun.”