Former UA Linebacker takes his talents from the football field to the field of medicine

Med students take their first steps

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - From the football field—to the field of medicine.

Friday night Jake Matthews, a former linebacker for the University of Arizona, started his next chapter along with 120 other classmates during the White Coat Ceremony.

The White Coat Ceremony is a traditional rite of passage for entering medical students. The event signifies a student’s acceptance into medical school and his or her commitment to compassionate patient care. After being robed with their first coats at the event, students will recite an oath acknowledging their dedication to patients.

The Class of 2023 is made up of 59 women and 60 men, ranging in age from 21 to 46. 77 percent of the class members are Arizona residents, including 31 Tucsonans. Nearly 50 percent of the class members hold a bachelors or masters degree from the UA.

Matthews is now hanging up his cleats to put on a lab coat.

“I always wanted to do more for society and get people back on their feet and improve their quality of life. Tonight symbolizes all the hard work and effort we’ve taken to get here," said Matthews.

Tackling the task of being a medical student while playing didn’t come without challenges.

“It was tough for sure. There were some challenges but I had a lot of resources and help along the way. And you have a goal and as driven as I am and how I was brought up -- you always keep that in sight,” said Matthews.

But Matthews says several experiences prepped him for his path to becoming a physician. Including injuring his foot back in 2015, which kept him out for the rest of the season.

"I had to have surgery so I was able to shadow my surgeon and really track my progress through the whole medical system from surgery to rehabilitation from athletic trainers and physical therapists."

Jake is a part of the 77% of students in the class from Arizona—with 31 from Tucson. And since our state is already low on physicians Jake hopes to be one of the many who stick around.

"To give back to the community that gave so much to me as I was growing up think that is super important and can be a priority in my medical career."

The clock on his next quarter of his life is just beginning. "From now on it's all work and we'll eventually get there."

But he and his classmates are ready to suit up for the next few years all to give back in the end.

“We’re all just trying to do good and inspire people to be their best mentally and physically and improve their quality of life. It’s just a dream come true and we’re so proud to be here.”

It wasn't just their new white coats the incoming class got Friday. Thanks to a donation from Banner UMC, med students won't have to worry about purchasing a new stethoscope either.

Stethoscopes are an essential tool that the new med students will use, but good quality ones can cost upwards of $100 each.

We talked to the CEO of Banner UMC about why it was important for them to contribute in this way.

"You know many of these people are coming in many of them with lots of student debt and their looking at more so we hope this makes it a little bit easier for them." said Dr. Whelan, the CEO of Banner University Medicine Tucson

Each student in the class of 2023 was given a stethoscope during today’s ceremony. We’re told the total donation comes out to more than $20,000.

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