Matthew Woods wasn’t sure what he wanted to do while he was serving in the Georgia Army National Guard. But then he spent time in a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, after his brother Bobby was shot in the head while serving in Afghanistan.
“The initial news was devastating. When you hear ‘shot in the head,’ you immediately think death,” Woods said. “We later learned they had removed the bullet and they were certain that he would pull through.”
After this experience, Woods decided to pursue a career in medicine.
“The main reason I want to be a doctor is to provide the kind of hope to people that those doctors provided me and my family. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I wasn’t sure I had the ability, but I knew I had the drive and that I was going to do everything I could to make that happen,” he said.
Woods is off to a great start. He received acceptances to several prestigious schools including Mayo School of Health Sciences, Georgetown University, and the Medical College of Georgia. He also received scholarship offers totaling more than $550,000. He chose to attend Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“The process of applying to medical school is one of the most trying and stressful things I have ever done. You fill out an application that basically asks you to reduce your qualifications and dreams into a well-articulated 5,300 characters. You sit down to take a test that will be the single biggest factor in your application. And that’s just the stress involved before you submit the applications,” Woods said. “After you submit the application, and do long-winded secondary applications, you sit and wait and doubt. I wish I could act cool and not neurotic at all, but I had a love/hate with my email notification sound on my phone. You want to be patient and know it will all work out in the end, but you’ve worked incredibly hard and hearing that email tone and it being an interview invite or an acceptance validates that dream.”
“I was going to become a doctor one way or another, so I would have done anything to have one school accept me. I’m proof that UTC will put you in a position where it’s possible to earn scholarships and be accepted to the very best schools,” he continued.
According to Woods, one thing that made him stand out on medical school applications was his unique major—Integrated Studies. This program allows eligible students to build a personalized program of study with the option to integrate two or more disciplines.
“My experience in Integrated Studies has been overwhelmingly positive. The courses I took were challenging and well-rounded. I didn’t have it any easier than those in the Biology Department or the Chemistry Department, but I was learning things I was interested in for every course and I was only taking courses that would make me a better applicant, med student, and physician. I would absolutely recommend going through the program to other students,” he said.
In addition to typical pre-med classes like chemistry and human anatomy, Woods took classes in psychology and sociology to give him a more well-rounded educational experience.
“I really love to learn. And with my courses being tailored to my interests I didn’t really have too many classes that I really dreaded taking. I’m not sure many people love to take biology, organic chemistry, physics, genetics, or biochemistry but I loved the challenge of them all. I liked it when people told me a teacher was hard, and I generally sought that teacher out,” he said.
He particularly enjoyed his classes with Dr. Terri Lemoyne, UC Foundation Professor of Sociology.
“Dr. LeMoyne has that rare charm of being incredibly intelligent and incredibly relatable at the same time. Everything she says makes perfect sense, and makes you feel more intelligent for having understood it. She is a teacher who has absolutely believed in me, maybe more than any other teacher I’ve had. I had her for a few different sociology classes and she broadened my horizons and made me a better person,” Woods said.
“At the university level I think it is hard to find teachers that are very interested in teaching, especially in their students actually learning, but at UTC I felt like all the teachers I had were especially interested in the learning and success of their students,” he continued.
For a person who came from a military family that “bounced around a lot” while he was growing up, Woods is proud of his experience at UTC.
“I do know that when I get to medical school people will know me as the ‘guy from Chattanooga’ or the ‘guy from UTC’ and I couldn’t be more proud,” he said.