As a third-year University of Washington medical student from Idaho, Devin Gaskins doesn’t have much free time in his schedule these days. But while most of his time is spent training to become a physician, he also dreams of someday being a published author.

“Every couple of months, I have a new idea in a different field of writing,” he says.

Creative writing and medicine may seem like two very different career paths. But for Gaskins, they come from the same place: a desire to connect with people, share their stories and empathize with their feelings.

“If my patients are in a place where they can’t pursue their passion, I could help them to the point where they could get back to that,” he says.

After all, pursuing one’s passion is something Gaskins knows a lot about.

“Through my passion for writing, I’ve been able to help push the conversation on what it’s like to experience anti-Black racism and how social injustice bleeds into healthcare and hurts patients.”

- Devin Gaskins

A powerful community of support
Gaskins was exposed to medicine early in life through his mother, a labor and delivery nurse. The talk around the dinner table engaged him, but what further inspired him were the opportunities given him by his parents.

“They had me when they were very young and came from a background without a lot of money,” he says. “Both joined the military so they could afford to go to college, which put me and my siblings into a position to do anything we wanted.”

Gaskins speaking with a nurse during a Family Medicine rotation in Tacoma.

Gaskins speaking with a nurse during a Family Medicine rotation in Tacoma.

For Gaskins, that meant becoming the first physician in his family.

In addition to his parents, Gaskins also credits great educators for supporting him along the way and encouraging his love of science. That support continues today with his professors at the University of Washington School of Medicine, along with his close-knit medical school cohort and friend group.

“Between the fantastic teachers and the other medical students, there are a lot of people in my corner who have made it manageable,” says Gaskins.

And the support goes both ways: He’s also helping them by serving as the president of his 2019 cohort. At first, Gaskins was reluctant to apply. Knowing that some of his older classmates had gone on medical missions or assisted with lab research, he felt they might be better candidates.

“Then, one of my professors, Dr. Fuerst, approached me during our first weeks of class,” he says. “He told me that he and some of the other faculty were impressed with how easily I socialized with everyone in the class this early in the year and that I had shown leadership qualities they thought would be fitting for the role of president.”

With the encouragement of faculty, Gaskins accepted the position, which serves as a liaison between school administration and the class.

“My class is an impressive group of people, and though I have much to learn from them, being their representative to the rest of WWAMI is a role I’m honored to have,” he says.

 

Scholarships open new pathways
For students like Gaskins, scholarships create more opportunities for medical students to give back by allowing them to pursue their passions.

Devin reading

Gaskins reading “Pre-Existing Condition,” an essay he wrote following George Floyd’s murder, at the White Coats for Black Lives rally in Boise, Idaho during the summer of 2020.

“Medical school is so expensive,” he says. “Scholarships create the freedom of choice to go after what you want to study and to be the kind of doctor you want to be without thinking about making more money in a certain specialty in the big city in order to pay off your loans.”

As a multi-year recipient of the Idaho WWAMI Endowed Scholarship and the Durward A. Huckabay, MD, Endowed Scholarship, Gaskins notes that scholarships can also be a gesture of support and confidence in a student’s ability to succeed.

“I’ve been lucky to get the same scholarship in subsequent years,” he says. “It shows that people see you, know your story and support and celebrate helping you out, year after year.”

Gaskins’ experiences in the WWAMI multistate education program have given him a sense of what it could feel like to practice in a rural area, involving less financial gain but potentially helping patients who need it the most.

“There is a shortage of primary care providers in rural areas,” he says. “The personnel at these clinics and hospitals are stretched thin, so a lot of responsibility falls to the WWAMI medical students. We do a lot to help, and the patients are very appreciative.”

As Gaskins continues to prepare for his medical career, he appreciates how his community — including his family, teachers and classmates, and scholarship support — has come together to help him succeed. With their help, he can pursue all his interests, from creating stories the world needs to serving his communities as a physician.

Written by Alice Skipton

YOU CAN HELP MEDICAL STUDENTS FIND THEIR PASSION

If you’d like to help give students like Devin the freedom to pursue a medical career they’re passionate about, make a gift to the Idaho WWAMI Endowed Scholarship Fund.

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