Like many students who enter college, Cliff Pruett didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He was drawn to the field of medicine and thought perhaps he would find his calling in a research lab.
“It wasn’t until the summer before my junior year when I did a research internship at University of Kansas that I realized that while I enjoyed research, I also wanted something more,” he recalls.
Pruett experienced that something more in Haiti, when he joined fellow ACU pre-health students on two medical mission trips.
“I wanted to be able to interact with and help people in a more immediate way,” says Pruett, who is now a first-year medical student at Washington University in St Louis. And that’s just what he did in Haiti.
Medicine as mission
Mission trips are known to play a life-changing role in students’ lives. They give perspective and enlighten travelers and, in Pruett’s case, help determine what path someone may take in life.
Pruett flew to Haiti the last semester of his senior year, and again in June, to work with LiveBeyond, a multi-faceted humanitarian relief effort run by ACU alumni David M. Vanderpool, M.D. (’82) and his wife, Laurie (Stallings ’81), and their family. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has a high demand for medical professionals, and one of the ways LiveBeyond provides relief is by taking pre-med students there on short-term mission trips.
“I really admire the mission of LiveBeyond since they have a permanent presence in Haiti,” says Pruett. “They preach the Gospel and are striving to transform Haiti for the better.”
While there, Pruett helped run a clinic and visited patients in need of medical assistance. The experience opened his eyes to what he wants to do and gave him a new appreciation for the life he already had. “We think of our everyday lives in a first-world country as being ‘the norm’ when really that is quite atypical. Haiti reminds me that we should live simply and be content,” he says.
When Pruett returned to ACU, it was with a new focus. With the help of ACU’s Body & Soul Program, he was able to hone in on what will one day become his career. “I was quite unsure of how to go about accomplishing the med school route once I decided I wanted to pursue medicine,” he says. “Body & Soul, as well as our pre-health adviser Dr. Cynthia Powell, was key in pointing me in the right direction.”
Through the program, Cliff was able to shadow two physicians and build relationships that taught him not only how to care for patients, but also how care about them, too. “That was what sold me on chasing after this profession,” he says.
A new worldview
Not only did Pruett’s ACU experience prepare him for medical school, it also helped shape his worldview.
“I think in the past there have been Christian institutions that have struggled to create a Christian environment without overly sheltering students or without forcing the students to all believe one single doctrine on every topic. In my experience though, ACU did a good job in broadening my horizons and helping me find my own faith in Christianity instead of just being given the university’s faith or my parent’s faith.”
Through his undergraduate journey, Cliff did more than just discover his calling. He built relationships that exhibited the ACU difference.
“I had some great professors, and they were not only excellent educators but invested mentors also. Thanks to the mentorship and advice of many of my professors, I was able to take part in extracurricular experiences that made me a unique applicant for medical school.”
Now that Pruett is in medical school, he is still narrowing his career options. “My first thought is that I want to do internal medicine so that I can go into cardiology or infectious disease. However, neurology also sounds interesting – and emergency medicine – and hematology/oncology. I am keeping an open mind.”