BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Each month, we highlight a Reserve Citizen Airman of the 307th Bomb Wing who has overcome obstacles to improve themselves and the Air Force. In October, we are featuring Staff Sgt. Jackson Stogsdill, an aircrew flight equipment journeyman with the 307th Operations Support Squadron. After graduating from high school and struggling through a few years of college, he decided to enlist in the Air Force Reserve in 2013. In the military, he regained focus and put his academic career back on track. The effort to earn a bachelor’s degree was not easy, but it was not the first challenge he had faced.
In 2010, Stogdill’s father was diagnosed with leukemia, fighting for six year before finally succumbing to the disease. That tragedy, coupled with a desire to help others, compelled Stogsdill to apply to medical school. Gaining admission proved to be difficult and he was denied entry on his first attempt. Stogsdill persevered, relying on a resiliency skillset learned in the military and was accepted to medical school on his second attempt. He also earned a medical school scholarship from the Air Force. Stogsdill is scheduled to attend Officer Training School in February of 2020. Upon successful completion, he will begin medical studies to become a medical doctor in the Air Force.
In an interview, Stogsdill offered insight on how he overcame adversity to reach his goals. He also spoke of his intent to use his new leadership role to improve the lives of others.
Q: What made you decide to try and get into medical school?
A: For most of my academic career, I didn’t think about becoming a doctor. But after my dad’s battle with leukemia and taking some medically focused college courses, I became interested in the science behind medicine. Also, I’ve always been a big supporter of St. Jude Children’s (Research) Hospital. Their goal of having no child ever die of cancer is very noble.
Q: What gave you the confidence to apply for medical school?
A: Before I joined the Air Force Reserve, I was just an average student and not very motivated. I didn’t know what I wanted out of school. After joining the military, I was able to focus that discipline into my academic career and accomplishing my goals.
Q. Is there a particular area of medicine that captures your interest?
A: I’d really like to specialize in pediatric oncology and work at St. Jude’s. That’s my dream job. I watched my dad fight cancer at 52-years-old and that was difficult enough. Some of these children are going through the same thing at only a few months of age. No child should have to go through that and I want to dedicate my life to that cause.
Q: You didn’t get accepted to medical school the first time you applied. What made you persist and try a second time?
A: The decision to re-apply was not easy, but not doing so would betray all the hard work I’d done and all the people who had encouraged me. So, I decided to try again and give it everything I had.
Q: Was it a big letdown not be accepted the first time?
A: It was extremely disappointing and I went through a tough time after it. But, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. It made me realize there was more work to do, so I spent the next two years building myself up and getting prepared to make another attempt.
Q: What did you do differently the second time?
A: Mostly, it was about dropping bad habits and picking up good ones. I started taking better care of my physical health. But, I also got more disciplined about studying for the Medical College Admissions Test. The first time, I only studied for a month before taking it. The second attempt required studying for seven months and shadowing a few physicians to try and gain some practical experience.
Q: You mentioned you picked up some good habits. Can you be more specific?
A: I started waking up at 4 a.m. to work out and stopped wasting so much time watching television. Now, I barely watch T.V. Most of my spare time is spent reading things that add value to my life, like philosophy and medicine. I also really enjoy reading history.
Q: It sounds like nutrition and physical fitness play a big role in your life. What do you eat? What’s your workout routine?
A: My diet involves high-protein, high-fat, low-carb foods. I spend way too much money on meat at the grocery store! I do mix in a lot of vegetables, as well. It’s been a little over a year since getting serious about this diet and I feel better than ever. For my workout, I do mostly weight training and mix in some cardiovascular exercise. Most of my weightlifting is functional. I’m not into bodybuilding. I want to get stronger.
Q: What about the social and spiritual dimensions of resiliency? What role do those play?
A: I’ve really let my social life fall to the wayside while studying for the MCAT. My day was basically wake up, work out, go to work, study and go to sleep. But my social life is important and I’ve been working to get that back up to speed. Spiritually, I am a Christian and take my faith very seriously. It something I try to live every day. Part of my spirituality is pushing myself to use my talents wisely. That has translated into helping me reach my goals.
Q: Are you planning on integrating your medical career with your Air Force career?
A: Yes. I’ve been accepted for the Air Force’s health professional scholarship. They help with tuition, medical supply expenses, and pay a stipend so I don’t have to worry about working while I am in medical school. After that, I owe them four years of active duty service.
Q: It seems like you’ve been through a time when you struggled with resiliency and balance. What advice would you give to someone, especially another Reserve Citizen Airmen, that may be going through similar adversity?
A: Set a goal, one that is neither too specific nor too broad, and structure your life and decisions around that. For example, on my first attempt at getting into medical school, the goal was to become a doctor. It was all I could see myself doing. So, when I didn’t get in, it really undercut me at a foundational level. Getting over the shock was difficult, but it made me realize the goal was too specific. Now, my goal is to live a meaningful life by adopting as much responsibility as I can manage to help people. Being a doctor isn’t the only way to do that, so it gives me a little more wiggle room for the challenges of life. Having a goal like that is important and, if you want to achieve it, you’ll put in the necessary work.
Q: Do you plan on staying in the Air Force after your four-year commitment?
A: Whether it is staying on active duty or returning to the Air Force Reserve, I plan on staying in the military. It fits my life style. I just enjoy it.