As a medical student – and in life – Nathan Fischer says there are very few things that stress him out.
“I’m not high-strung about anything other than finances,” said Fischer, a third-year student at WMed.
Given his apprehension about money, about the debt he is taking on for his journey as an aspiring physician, Fischer welcomed the news in October that he was named a recipient of the VFW’s Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship, a $5,000 award that will help pay down his medical school tuition costs.
Fischer, who is a native of Gaylord, Michigan, was one of more than 350 veterans and active-duty service members who were awarded a scholarship for the spring/fall 2023 school year. The scholarship is funded through donations collected each year during the Help a Hero campaign at Sport Clips Haircuts locations throughout the U.S.
“It feels like a lot to me,” said Fischer, who served as a tactical air control party in the U.S. Air Force from 2014 to 2018 . “It really does make a big difference. I’ve never taken on debt until medical school and this scholarship has a huge impact for me and my peace of mind.”
Fischer said he applied for the Sport Clips Help A Hero Scholarship after learning of the opportunity in a newsletter distributed to students by the Office of Financial Aid at WMed. Fischer’s father served in the U.S. Army and he said he’s proud to also be a veteran. A smile crosses his face when he reflects on his time in the military.
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Fischer said. “I loved it.”
Fischer’s path to the U.S. Air Force – and eventually WMed – took shape in 2013 when he enrolled at Central Michigan University. At the time, he thought he might want to pursue a career as a physician assistant.
He spent one year at CMU before enlisting in the Air Force and following in his father’s footsteps. He said he still aspired to be a Physician Assistant but also entertained the idea of going to medical school and eventually returning to northern Michigan to serve the community where he grew up.
Fischer said his time in the Air Force gave him the confidence to pursue medical school and during his last few months of military service, he began to lay the groundwork for the pursuit of a career in medicine.
“Through my time in the Air Force, I was fortunate to look back and say, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” he said. “After serving in the military, nothing was hard about college because you develop such good focus and prioritization, and time management. You get that bar set high.”
On the advice of an Air Force friend from California, Fischer said he applied to the University of Michigan and was accepted. He majored in cellular and molecular biology and benefited from U-M’s Go Blue Guarantee which allowed him to complete his four years there debt-free.
Now, as a third-year student at WMed, Fischer said he is happy with his choice to pursue his MD degree.
“It’s a sense of duty,” he said. “If you’re capable of helping someone, it’s nice to be able to help them.”
Fischer hopes to match into Family Medicine in 2025 and he wants to remain in Michigan. His end goal, he said, is to practice medicine in northern Michigan, possibly near Traverse City, to be near home and serve patients in his community.
“I grew up in a small town and it’s cool to me to be that small town doctor,” he said. “It makes you a central spoke in your community and there are lots of opportunities to help.”
Sport Clips is currently collecting donations in-store for the Help A Hero Scholarship through November 11. For more information, go to sportclips.com/hero.