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Andrew Chapman stands in front of the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences building. His time is now split between the Navy and the Texas A&M College of Medicine.
Laura McKenzie / Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communication
Andrew Chapman, a graduate of Texas A&M University College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, knew early on that he wanted to get into medicine.
Growing up in his father’s veterinary clinic, he got to know the daily inner workings of diagnosis and treatment. Although it was about animal care, the experience put him on the way to medical school.
As Chapman got older, he developed an urge to serve selflessly and became interested in joining the military to give back to the country. His interests in aviation, medicine, and the military led him to become an aviation surgeon, a position as a medical officer who provides clinical medical care to aviation service members from flight crews and pilots to astronauts and air traffic controllers.
After enrolling at Texas A&M University, he chose a path few students take to become a doctor.
By the time Chapman reached Bryan College Station, he joined the Corps of Cadets and began looking for an undergraduate program that would pique his interests and lay a solid foundation for him in medical school and as a doctor. He saw an opportunity to stand out from other medical school applicants by attending the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program, FIVS, in the Department of Entomology.
“The program really suited me perfectly,” he said. “University is my parents’ alma mater, the Corps of Cadets gave me character building opportunities, and the forensic program was a path that set me apart from the majority of medical students. The demanding academic achievements, the faculty and the internship all helped me to put together a bachelor’s degree that made me unique. “
Finding a way in forensics
Student time is what you make of it, Chapman said. But the forensic program forced him to have experiences that were invaluable to his advancement, and represent a less traveled path among medical students.
“I think a lot of students don’t realize that forensics is a medical degree before medicine,” he said. “A lot of people associate it with CSI, but they don’t think it’s the hard science it is. But there are hundreds and hundreds of biomedical and biology majors that apply for medical school each year, but forensics majors are few and that’s what really sets you apart. “
The course load was challenging, and Chapman said Professor and Program Director Aaron Tarone and Professor Jeff Tomberlin were integral to his development, but it was a requirement that students take part in research or an internship that gave an important dimension to learning.
If there’s one tip Chapman would pass on to a student with a clear or less clear idea of his or her career niche – find an internship that applies to your field and is interesting.
Chapman was interned in the Bexar County’s coroner’s office, where he assisted pathologists on autopsies and learned from them about the investigative aspects of investigating the cause of death.
It’s the investigative aspect of forensic medicine that Chapman believes will help him as a doctor. He may not become a pathologist, but he said the internship improved his deductive reasoning skills, which will be important as a doctor.
“If you want to become a doctor, you have to investigate because it is your job to make the diagnosis and that requires deductive arguments,” he said. “Patients will come in and want to know what’s wrong with their body, and as a doctor, it’s up to you to investigate and find out what’s going on.”
Perspectives for prospective FIVS students
Pete Teel, former deputy head of the department of entomology and professor emeritus, said Chapman’s experience on the FIVS program was similar to that of other students he has seen over the past three decades.
Teel, who was on the faculties that helped build the forensic and investigative science program at Texas A&M, said the program – and the research or internship required for students – introduces concepts that can be fundamental in a variety of areas and help students find a career path.
“The program encompasses a range of applicable sciences when it comes to forensic investigations,” he said. “So it’s a challenging opportunity for any student who is naturally curious and has a desire to solve puzzles. And the internship or research experience can strengthen the student’s idealized path or let them know that they don’t want to go in that direction. Either way, it is extremely valuable. “
Teel said Chapman was right that majoring in forensics and investigative science sets him apart from those who compete for a competitive career path.
“Not only does it make you stand out, but the other part of it is that once the person gets to the interview they are usually asked why they chose this direction and they can explain their career interests and how that got the way that you have chosen. “
There are many potential career paths, from pathology to law enforcement and cybersecurity to practicing law or medicine, Tarone said. The graduates of the program also enjoy a high success rate, be it at the start of their careers or in the graduate school.
According to graduate survey responses, 98% of FIVS graduates entering the labor market were employed, 62% in their field and 36% outside of the field. All graduates who were aiming for a postgraduate degree continued their education, with 69% completing part-time studies and 31% studying outside the field.
Tarone attributes graduates’ ability to find jobs and participate in graduate programs with a high success rate to one underlying tenet of the program – problem solving. A Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission survey of employers as part of a recent reaccreditation process found that an employer was making an effort to drop FIVS majors because students were looking for solutions to problems before going to their manager.
“It just highlighted what we were trying to do, which was to create independent problem-solver,” he said. “It is for this reason that employers see value in our students, and I think their overall success is based in part on what they learn in this program.”
Chapman’s journey continues with medical school, military
The FIVS coursework covers many pre-medical school necessities such as chemistry and biology. That knowledge, coupled with Chapman’s initiative as a student and effective leadership skills he demonstrated as president of the Aggie Forensic and Investigative Organization, should serve him well as a medical student and ultimately as a doctor, Tarone said.
“Whether it’s a forensic or a medical context, it’s very similar. The outcome depends on your ability to make decisions based on the scientific information you have, and the consequences can be enormous, ”he said. “So it’s important to get it right, no matter what forensic or investigative area a student gets into.”
Chapman recently graduated from a medical camp that should get him used to the pace and rigors of entering the Texas A&M College of Medicine. He is committed to the Navy and will split the time between school and duty.
Texas A & M’s longstanding relationship with the military departments both accommodates student commitments while keeping them on their way to graduation.
“I’m fortunate that the College of Medicine is so military in nature, working as part of my naval duties, rotations in hospitals and clinics wherever they send me,” he said. “This military relationship sets Texas A&M apart from any other medical school in Texas.”
Whether he’s in medical school, on an aircraft carrier, or in a clinic as part of his naval rotations, Chapman said he looks forward to the next four years and additional assistance or active service. The path may change with new interests or goals, but Chapman feels that his academic and professional path ahead is solid because of his experience in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program.
“College definitely helped prepare me for medical school, and the Cadet Corps prepared me for a life in the military,” he said. “Anyone who enters the forensic and investigative science program really just needs to find their niche,” he said. “Just take the initiative and find what suits you.”