Before starting his first year at NEOMED this fall, Fredrick Hutson had served as a Marine and spent 20 years managing restaurants and grocery stores.
He’s 43, divorced and remarried, with a wife who is working on her undergraduate degree and their two children at home. He recently became a grandfather to little Kennedy (shown in photo).
A non-traditional medicine student? Absolutely.
And it may be just this rich background – along with the love of rural life that he cultivated as a child playing in the woods at his grandfather’s house in tiny Paris, Ohio – that elevated him to a select group students named to the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Out of more than 1,800 applicants each year, only about 10 percent are selected for the scholarship award, according to the NHSC. Hutson feels fortunate to be one of them.
Even in a Zoom call from his home, where his dining room has become an office and kids’ study space during the pandemic, Hutson comes across as a good listener with an easy conversational style. If customer service skills were on a checklist for a health care provider, he would tick all the boxes.
In a recent conversation, Hutson said that he learned the good news about his NHSC scholarship this fall – after he had taken the financial plunge to start his first year at NEOMED. Now, he is relieved that his educational costs will be paid and he will receive a stipend while in school. (The loans he took out to get started have since been repaid by the NHSC.) In return, he has promised to choose one of five areas of primary care (his preference is family medicine) and practice in an underserved community for four years.
Since that’s exactly what he wanted to do, the agreement couldn’t be better, says Hutson. If he can’t find a location, the National Health Services Corps will even help him with that.
Hutson learned about the NHSC opportunity through an email announcement from NEOMED while he was in the baccalaureate/M.D. program at Kent State University, he said.
As a first-year student in the Rural Medicine pathway, he takes the same classes as the rest of his College of Medicine classmates. In addition, those in the RMED program gather once a month or so for a presentation or other event organized by Mike Appleman, the RMED director.
Hutson is learning to do physical exams through his physical diagnosis class at Alliance Community Hospital. “We take skills we’ve learned from working with simulated patients and apply them to doing a physical exam. You have to listen and be compassionate — and know when to stop talking,” he says.
If you listen carefully to patients during an examination, you can pick up on their fears, says Hutson.
Responding to customer complaints, back in his retail days, seasoned Hutson as a listener, too. As he puts it, “One key lesson I learned in customer service is that they don’t always expect you to solve the problem, but they want to know that you actually listened.”