Though she didn’t come from a military family, Lauryn Zielinski now finds it difficult to see herself in a life outside of the U.S. Air Force. The fourth-year medical student at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and a recipient of the service branch’s Health Professions Scholarship.
She initially accepted the scholarship to help cover the costs of medical school. While she was not sure where the decision would take her, she was up for the challenge. Now, after four years as an Air Force officer and medical student, Zielinski is considering spending her career in the military.
“I don’t think I had a good grasp on the journey I was about to begin when I started the application. In the application process, I spent a day with a group of young high school students enlisting in the Air Force,” said Zielinski, of Springboro, Ohio. “I was incredibly inspired by their stories, many from broken homes with hopes of a different and better future. That’s when I realized truly what I had signed up for and the population I would get to care for during my career.”
There are lots of elements that appeal to her about the Air Force lifestyle, some of which she enjoyed in past experiences. She played college soccer as an undergraduate student at Ohio Northern University. Being on a team, helping teammates and working together to achieve the common goal is something Zielinski loves.
As a medical student, she has spent much of her time studying and going to class like any other. But requirements for her scholarship have given her a few additional experiences.
Between her first and second years, she attended commissioned officer training to learn the basics of military life, such as marching and leadership. During her third year, Zielinski attended a flight surgery introductory course where she learned about medical concerns unique to military medicine, like the effects of high altitude on the human body. This year she had the opportunity to rotate through military training programs and audition for a residency position.
“Medical school is hard in itself, but I think there is an additional set of skills in learning not only to be a good physician but a good officer in the military. Learning to be a good officer in my opinion is learning to be a good leader,” Zielinski said. “I’ve had the benefit of working with a number of great current and former military physicians so far in my career. I learned how they problem solve, communicate with others and truly care for and look out for the individuals around them.”
Zielinski continues to work with the team of medical students around her. She meets up with other Health Professions Scholarship recipients for mentorship and to discuss building the military community at the medical school.
Like her fellow classmates, she doesn’t yet know where she will end up for her residency. The military has its own program for resident matching, which takes place in December. Zielinski will see what happens then. She has applied for pediatrics.
If all goes well, she sees herself possibly staying in the Air Force for her career. She plans to take it one step at a time. Her dream is to one day be a part of an Air Force humanitarian mission team.
“I am really happy with the decision I made. Being a part of the Air Force has opened up so many unique opportunities for me during my time in medical school and I have met so many incredible physicians and fellow medical students on this journey,” Zielinski said. “I think anyone who goes into medicine has a love of serving others. But since starting my career, I have found a special passion for being able to help take care of those who serve our country.”
The Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine is a community-based medical school affiliated with seven major teaching hospitals in the Dayton area. The medical school educates the next generation of physicians by providing medical education for more than 459 medical students and 458 residents and fellows in 13 specialty areas and 10 subspecialties. Its research enterprise encompasses centers in the basic sciences, epidemiology, public health and community outreach programs. More than 1,500 of the medical school’s 3,328 alumni remain in medical practice in Ohio.