Pat Tillman Foundation can’t fulfill its mission to empower military veterans and their spouses without the generosity of our supporters across the country. Nationwide, over 400 Tillman Scholars are striving to impact our country and communities through their studies in medicine, law, business, policy, science, education and the arts. Every “Tillman Tuesday,” we are committed to highlighting the individual impact of a Tillman Scholar, focusing on their success in school, career and community—all thanks to your support. This week we had a chance to learn more about 2014 Tillman Scholar Adrienne Kambouris who recently started medical school in her home state at University of Maryland. Adrienne joined the Army at the young age of 17, serving 10 years. A mom of three, Adrienne can be characterized as a Giver.
WITH A CRIME RATE THAT RANKS ABOVE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU GROWING UP IN BALTIMORE?
“Regardless of what it looks like from the outside, I love Baltimore. Throughout my military service, I continued to return and made sure that my important life milestones occurred here. But that doesn’t mean that I disregard the state of my hometown. The disparities in health, education, and poverty were what drove me to apply to medical school here.”
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO JOIN THE MILITARY AT THE YOUNG AGE OF 17?
“While my mother worked hard to care for my brother and I, there was no plan or discussion of logistically attending college. I heard other students at my school discussing what ‘looked good on college applications,’ and being ‘well-rounded,’ but I had no idea what they were talking about. I met a girl during my junior year who had done a split training option, meaning she completed basic training before her senior year, then went back into the Army after graduation. She told me about what her service earned her and what was expected of her. To me, she was describing the way to my future. I joined the week after my 17th birthday while still a senior in high school.”
HOW DID YOU SERVE?
“I was an intelligence systems maintainer, meaning that any electronic equipment that was used in the intelligence community, I was trained to repair. The first half of my career found me working with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones. I completed two tours in Iraq for a total of 27 months working with this system. My second deployment we provided surveillance for numerous units, one of which included my younger brother who was an Infantryman. The second half of my service included working in networking and human resources.”
DID YOU ACHIEVE WHAT YOU SET OUT TO ACHIEVE IN JOINING THE MILITARY?
“I initially joined for very selfish reasons: I wanted to attend college and this was the best way for me to accomplish that goal. I didn’t expect to fall in love with serving. A four-year commitment rapidly turned into ten. My favorite part of serving was learning how to lead. I loved mentoring soldiers and helping them realize their potential.”
THROUGHOUT YOUR 10 YEARS OF SERVICE, WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN PRIOR TO JOINING?
“When I applied to medical school I was forced to reflect on my journey. In my personal statement, I had a limited number of characters to explain how I grew up, why I joined the military, and if I could bring something unique to a medical program. One thing that stood out to me is that I have the ability to accomplish so much more than I can even think. I feel like my service helped me focus on qualities that are likely to bring me success, and frame out characteristics that would prove to be detrimental.”
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SEPARATE FROM THE SERVICE?
“I had reached a point in my career where I was no longer growing. My husband suggested going back to school and I separated.”
PLEASE SHARE THE IMPORTANCE TO YOU OF A BOOK YOU READ CALLED, “GIFTED HANDS” AND HOW THAT INFLUENCES YOU.
“I love to read. As a girl, you would always find me with a book in my hand. When I was eight, I read a book called Gifted Hands, and two things resonated with me. First, there was someone that grew up like me that was able to earn respect and be regarded as a leader in his field. Second, the book details a monumental surgery of separating conjoined twins. The preparation, care, and attention to detail required to accomplish such a feat was incredible to me. To have such an immediate impact on someone’s life inspired me to pursue medicine.”
ASIDE FROM THE FINANCIAL BENEFIT, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU TO BE PART OF THE TILLMAN SCHOLAR COMMUNITY?
“Tillman Scholars convince me than I can, and should, think big. If you have a dream or idea, and you share it with others, they could respond with interest, indifference or even discouragement. A Tillman Scholar will not only accept that your idea is possible, they’ll sit down with you and work up a plan to make it happen. The accomplishments of these members of society are immense and humbling. I feel that it was because of Tillman Scholars that I was able to take on the medical school application process and challenge myself as an undergraduate. After each scholar event, I feel renewed and motivated to do more.”
WHAT HAS THE TILLMAN SCHOLARSHIP ENABLED YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THAT YOU MAY NOT HAVE OTHERWISE HAD?
“Without the stress of providing for my family, I was able to focus on being an excellent mother and student. I became more involved on campus as a tutor and teacher’s aide, volunteered within my community, and gained clinical experiences for medical school. I was also able to conduct undergraduate research, which led me to pursue a dual MD/PhD. But more importantly, to me is that becoming a Tillman Scholar gave me access to a community that challenges me and motivates me to be better.”
WITH BEING A MOM OF THREE, A WIFE AND A MED STUDENT, HOW ARE YOU INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY AND HOW DO YOU JUGGLE EVERYTHING?
“Currently, I am a mentor in the UMB CURE Program. Students are selected from at-risk middle schools in West Baltimore and paired with a graduate student within one of University of Maryland’s programs. There are events hosted throughout the school year, after school tutoring, and a summer project held on the UMB campus. This is important to me, because I feel that these students just need someone to believe in them, expose them to new experiences, and show them the way to their goals. I am also a Diversity Fellow in the Interprofessional Student Learning & Service Initiatives Office. We coordinate campus-wide activities, programs, and services that foster students’ academic, personal, and professional development.
As far as how I do it: a very detailed, color coordinated calendar that disseminates to every electronic device in my house. And coffee!”
WHAT WAS THE FIRST DAY OF MEDICAL SCHOOL LIKE FOR YOU, KNOWING YOUR DREAMS WERE COMING TO FRUITION AND YOU WERE IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN DESTINY?
“There was a moment on the first day that I will never forget. There were a lot of administrative tasks, but we also completed Roll Call in Davidge Hall. This building was the original School of Medicine for the University of Maryland, and the oldest medical facility in the country continuously used for medical education. Thousands of doctors started their education here. I heard my name, said, “Here,” and felt a shift. I was here. I’d made it. Now, the real work begins.”
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG-TERM PLANS?
“I am currently pursuing an MD/PhD at the University of Maryland Baltimore. I am interested in pursuing surgery and graduate studies of microbial pathogenesis (how microorganisms make us sick). I have a very long term goal of opening a year round boarding and preparatory school for middle and high schoolers. Something that is very important to me is to ensure that I can show others the way to success and help them realize their full potential. I would love for this school to be in Maryland and to continue to serve the people of Baltimore.”