Oluwatosin “Tosin” Ayotunde first became interested in medicine when he was a child and his mother was pregnant with his sister. His mom liked to watch shows about pregnancy on the Discovery Health Channel.
“We’d watch it every day, and I had no choice, so I watched it too. As a kid, it was the first time I had seen something like that, and I was very interested in how it all worked, how you could do something like cut someone open and take out a baby. Some people might have been weirded out, but I thought, this is something I could see myself doing some day,” Ayotunde said
That was the beginning of the path that led Ayotunde to graduate from UTC with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in Spring 2016, already accepted by five different medical schools. Ayotunde attributes much of his success to his time here at UTC.
“I knew I was interested in medicine when I got to UTC, and I thought I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse, but it wasn’t 100% certain. Going through, I feel like it was better than if I went to a larger university, because people took time with me. My professors would talk to me one on one. I’d say, this is what I want to do, and they would give me good advice, making sure I was doing the right things to stay on track,” Ayotunde said.
One of these professors was Dr. Hope Klug, UC Foundation Assistant Professor of Biology, Geology, and Environmental Science. Ayotunde worked with Klug on research into the predation by new predators of the Barrens Topminnow, a local fish species in Tennessee. The research sought to teach the fish that the other species was a dangerous predator to be avoided – and to find out whether that behavioral adaptation would be learned by other individuals in the population.
“Tosin is one of those students that you love having in class because he’s interested in and thoughtful about the material and an independent thinker. Tosin expressed interest in gaining experience with research, so I had him help out with a project that my graduate student at the time was working on, which was focused on the conservation of an endangered fish species. Tosin was always eager to help out whenever he could; research isn’t always fun or exciting on a day-to-day basis, but Tosin was someone that we could always count on,” Klug said.
Ayotunde applied to six different medical schools, and was accepted to the five that he decided to interview at: Quillen College of Medicine in ETSU, University of Arizona’s Phoenix’s College of Medicine, UT Health Science Center College of Medicine in Memphis, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, and Xavier College of Medicine in Aruba.
“I don’t think I’d be here without the people at UTC really supporting me. My teachers and student support services helped me a lot. They looked into what I needed to do to be a competitive applicant for medical school, and they would be on me about it. They got me doing volunteer hours: Big Brother, Salvation Army, Food Bank, and GEAR UP. They made sure I did job shadowing hours with a local doctor,” Ayotunde said.
“As a professor, one of the best parts of my job is to see such an excellent student work very hard and achieve their goals. Tosin is exactly the type of student that you’d like to see in the medical profession in the future. I know that I, along with my colleagues in Biology, am incredibly proud of Tosin’s accomplishments,” Klug said.
Ayotunde wants people to know that they too can repeat his accomplishments.
“People say, you must be so smart, but I don’t think I’m any smarter than anybody. People ask how I got accepted into all these medical schools, and it wasn’t just having good grades. Just about all the people applying to med school have good GPAs and good MCAT scores, so that’s not the only factor. You have to set yourself apart. It’s because I was also an athlete, an RA, and a tutor and because I volunteered, because I did job shadowing. I remember days I’d only have like half an hour to an hour of free time, because I had to go from class to track practice to tutoring to RA stuff to studying. You have to want it and you have to focus and put in the work,” Ayotunde said.
“One of the really impressive things about Tosin is that he had such a busy schedule that involved coursework, medical school preparation, research, and track; yet he always seemed to have everything under control and was eager to gain new academic experiences. Being accepted to several medical schools is truly an exceptional accomplishment, and in Tosin’s case it’s very well-deserved,” Klug said.
Ayotunde has decided to go to The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix this fall. He’s still not sure what he wants to specialize in.
“The way my brain works, I like to do everything, so I’ve thought of a lot of things to do in the future. I know I’ll have to specialize. I’m just trying to keep my mind open and try everything, because you don’t know until you try things if you’re interested in waking up and doing something every day,” Ayotunde said. “You have to keep your eye on the bigger picture. I’ve been in school and I’m still going to be in school for a while. You have to really have that passion to stick with it.”