Tillman Scholars in the News

Blog, Tillman Scholars in the News | 08/02/2021

We’re proud of these Tillman Scholars for continuing to make an impact on their communities. Read on to see how they continue to lead through action.

Natasha Ryan, 2018 Tillman Scholar

Natasha Ryan was a part of the first all-female flight crew to take the skies in an HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. The crew participated in a fly-over for the 3rd Infantry Division change of command ceremony at Fort Stewart, Georgia, June 21.

Natasha joined the Army in July 1999 as an Administrative Specialist and Postal Clerk. Early in her career, she deployed to Bosnia, Kuwait and Pakistan, where she supported humanitarian aid efforts through the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. But a chance meeting with two female Big Windy pilots motivated Natasha to pursue a new path in Army aviation. Still actively serving, Natasha’s experiences as an aviation safety officer and as a military pilot have inspired her to do more to ensure service members have safe passage to accomplish their mission. With a graduate degree in Occupational Safety Management, she hopes to influence organizations such as the FAA and NTSB to research and lobby for safer protocols in civil and military aviation standards.


Jayme Hentig, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Jayme Hentig’s research on traumatic brain injury in adult zebrafish was published in Biomedicines.

Serving as an airborne combat medic, Jayme witnessed and treated numerous traumatic brain injuries, as well as suffering from one himself. These experiences became the catalyst for Jayme to pursue a career and passion in neuroscience. As a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Notre Dame, Jayme developed a novel blunt-force TBI model in regenerative zebrafish allowing for the examination of both the injury and the regenerative recovery. His work has been nationally recognized by the National Science Foundation, and he aims to further understand the complex gene regulation providing a potential neuroprotective and regenerative therapeutic to at-risk populations such as service members.

Chris Bellaire, 2021 Tillman Scholar

Chris Bellaire published an article in Teaching and Learning in Medicine about military veterans in medicine and MD pipeline programs. Chris co-wrote the article with fellow student veteran, Tom Fetherston, and the admissions team at Mount Sinai, including Dr. Valerie Parkas who is the Senior Associate Dean of Admissions and Recruitment at Mount Sinai.

Chris took to heart the human consequences of war and poverty and the disparities in global healthcare access. Following his service in the Marines, Chris attended Columbia University’s post-baccalaureate pre-medical program before starting medical school at Mount Sinai. Chris is committed to advocating for veterans’ health in his medical training and future career as a physician, and he hopes to increase awareness within the medical community about how military service can affect veterans’ physical and mental health later in life. Chris volunteers with the educational non-profit Service to School to encourage veterans to pursue careers in medicine, and he is the leader of the military medicine and veterans healthcare group at Mount Sinai.

Jamal Sowell, 2014 Tillman Scholar

Jamal Sowell spoke at the annual CEO Roundtable Luncheon hosted by the Gunster law firm and the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida. The focus of the discussion was about the work that Sowell’s team is doing to provide assistance to small and minority businesses in accessing capital, entering new markets and creating revenue growth and job creation.

In his first year of graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he enlisted as a private first class in the Marine Corps reserves, while simultaneously completing his Master’s degree. After graduation, he then went on active duty as an officer. Jamal found his experience in Afghanistan both life changing and humbling. Serving as an enlisted Marine, then being selected as an Officer to serve those same Marines as their leader was the most daunting responsibility he had ever accepted. The experience became a way for him to repay his country for the enormous opportunities it had provided him. His tour of duty with fellow Marines in Afghanistan helped him realize how fortunate he was and motivated him to make a difference in his home state of Florida.