Meet Samuel WiseCarver
Samuel WiseCarver, who is graduating from ETSU with his bachelor’s degree on May 7,
struggled to decide between teaching and medicine for his career path. He has enjoyed
tutoring his peers at ETSU, but, after becoming an Honors-in-Discipline student in
chemistry – a subject he struggled with in high school – he ultimately chose medicine
and will enter medical school at Vanderbilt University on a full scholarship this
summer. During his time as a student, the Johnson City native has been active in the
Student Government Association as both a senator and a Student Court justice, as well
as the American Medical Student Association, the Minority Association of Pre-Health
Students, Alpha Epsilon Delta health pre-professional honor society, and the Chess
Club. In 2020, he completed a summer research fellowship virtually through Stanford
University in support of an ongoing research project in which ETSU Biological Sciences
professor Dr. Cerrone Foster and colleagues are studying menopause as a risk factor
for heart disease. In his spare time, Samuel enjoys serving others, taking part in
ETSU’s Service Saturday activities and volunteering at the VA. He also enjoys electronics
and technology, and has even built his own computer.
Tell me a bit about your childhood and how experiences in your early life have led you to where you are today.
I’m the oldest of three kids. My mother was born in southern Brazil and my father, who is from the Cherokee tribe, is from Detroit. And so it’s kind of weird that I grew up with a mom from South America and a dad from Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in the hills of Tennessee. They gave me this unique perspective when I was going through school.
My mom is a PT (physical therapist), and so I think I was perhaps driven a bit toward that, but for a long time, I thought that I wanted to be a teacher, because I really like to teach. But I always liked science and learning, too. Even as a little kid, I was always picking up the little reptile books in the library instead of “Magic Tree House” and stuff like that. I eventually realized that teaching wasn’t really it for me. I always wanted to be a doctor. I tried to think about why, because going to medical school, you have to be sure. And so thinking about it, I realized that I really like doing things with my hands all the time, and I like the application of knowledge. Chemistry is kind of a way for me to learn something. As time goes on and I learn medicine, I can teach it, but there’s also an opportunity to be able to apply it and use it and work with people.
You spoke of your Brazilian and Cherokee heritage. Tell me a bit more about that and what it means to you.
It was always kind of there, you know, in the little parts of my life. I don’t have a middle name – I have two last names, two family names. My siblings and I all share the same “middle” name. And as we grew up, there were just certain things that we did and certain things that we accepted, and I’d go to school and it would be kind of weird.
My heritage is really important to me because it gives me this appreciation for differences that sometimes it’s hard to get in an area like East Tennessee. I have this drive to find things that are different, because I’m different. It’s important for me to find all these different experiences and people. That’s why I picked up the culture and health minor, because I wanted to be exposed to more of what the world is like and get more perspectives.
How did you choose ETSU, and what do you like most about the university?
ETSU is the only school I applied to because it was in my hometown. I played soccer at Science Hill High School and was supposed to come and play here, but I ended up getting injured and couldn’t play anymore. I was planning on going to community college because we didn’t have the money to pay for ETSU, but then when I figured out that the scholarships that I could get were enough to basically cover it, it was kind of like a “no-brainer” to come here. And since I’ve been here, I really like it.
One thing that really stands out is how close everyone is here and how easy it is to get to know not only other students, but faculty. My friends at bigger universities never know their faculty – it’s really hard to get to know them on a personal level – whereas here, everybody’s so approachable and it’s super-easy to make a connection and get on a closer level with the people that are teaching and working. That’s been the most outstanding thing.
You mentioned why you chose your culture and health minor. How did you choose chemistry as your major and finance as a second minor?
It’s a weird story, because in high school, I always liked biology. Being a naïve kid who wanted to be a doctor, it was basically either you picked biology or you picked chemistry. And I was really bad at chemistry in high school. So when I came to college, I thought, I’m going to prove to myself that I can do this. So I picked the one that I was bad at. I picked chemistry and never looked back. And for my finance minor – I felt like I needed a little bit of the business, a little bit of the science and a little bit of the personality applying to medical school.
After you complete medical school and become a physician, what are your professional and personal goals?
It’s very interesting because it changes all the time. If I can get the chance, I would like to work in health care policy and legislation. I’ve really taken a liking to bioethics and that kind of thing. So, if possible, I might do a dual degree or pursue a certificate that would help me in trying to work on health care reform and that kind of thing. Also, I would really like to be an attending physician in an academic hospital, working with medical students – and working with even college students and guiding them to medicine. That was really important for me when I was going through, and I really want to be able to do that for somebody else.