2024 Tillman Scholar

Samantha Little

Coast Guard
University of Texas

“Work in healthcare can be especially taxing. I intend to be a physician leader who advocates for both patients and healthcare workers to ensure the best care is delivered.”

As a child, I idolized my father, a career military officer, and knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I was commissioned as a U.S. Coast Guard officer and appreciated the immense amount of responsibility and opportunities to lead law enforcement and marine safety missions. Most of all, I enjoyed using my position to help others; I saw firsthand how excellent leaders could create an inclusive culture where people thrive, and how the opposite can be truly devastating. I discovered my passion for medicine through exposure to both global and domestic health inequities — too many populations, often historically marginalized communities, don’t have access to essential health care due to ingrained barriers and generations of ineffective policy. 

After I completed active duty, I became a physician assistant at a Veteran Affairs hospital and had the opportunity to care for veterans diagnosed with cancer. I developed a passion for advocacy and quality improvement projects that systematically improved the delivery of cancer care. I co-established a multidisciplinary head and neck cancer clinic and served as a cancer coordinator to promote patient-focused care for veterans. I was fortunate to have many physician mentors. These leaders were experts in their field who implemented system-wide changes to better the lives of their employees and patients. I hope to have a similar impact on my patients, combining my love for leadership, medicine, and service to others as a future physician.