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WIU Student Receives Four-Year Scholarship to Medical School

May 8, 2002

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MACOMB, IL - - Service to country and community, combined with passions for learning and helping people, has directed McDonough District Hospital (MDH) paramedic Mark Hensley toward his dream of becoming a medical doctor.

A Blandinsville native, Hensley graduates from Western Illinois University May 11 with academic distinction as the Biology Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar. He will earn a bachelor's degree in biology with an option in microbiology and minors in chemistry and professional writing.

This fall, supported by a nearly $100,000 McDonough County Children of Veterans Scholarship for the Korean Conflict, Hensley enters the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The competitive scholarship, based on a student's academic accomplishments and his or her parent's service to country, covers full tuition for four years. Hensley's father Charles, a retired Blandinsville farmer, is a veteran of the Korean Conflict.

"This scholarship will allow me the freedom to eventually pick a residency not based on financial situations but based on what I want to do," Hensley said.

Not sure which area he wants to specialize in, Hensley added, "I'm going into medical school with an open mind, but I have interests in emergency medicine, orthopedic surgery and cardiology."

Through the military, Hensley was offered a full-scholarship and stipend to attend the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences located in Bethesda, MD. He opted out of the offer to attend the University of Illinois College of Medicine, his lifelong dream.

Hensley had already distinguished himself with two tours of duty in the Balkans as a medic in the elite Marine Corps Force Recon platoon. While in the Balkans he worked in direct support of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Prior to joining that unit, Hensley completed two years of training in combat diving, parachuting, deep reconnaissance and counter terrorism, which earned him the distinction of being an amphibious reconnaissance corpsman.

"The military was a great experience for me, and I really enjoyed it," Hensley said. "It was hard to separate myself from the Navy, but I was also a little homesick. Being familiar with the area and with the potential for employment at McDonough District Hospital, I chose to enter Western."

He enrolled in WIU and its Illinois Centennial Honors College in January 1999.

"I tried to set myself up to succeed academically," he added. "I knew I probably wouldn't get the personal attention I've had in the Honors program if I had pursued my education at a larger institution. And I knew the Honors program, combined with my training in the Navy, would make me strong candidate to get into medical school."

Hensley, who at 28 is a few years older than the majority of his classmates, said he enjoyed interacting and working side-by-side with his professors.

"I feel really close to my professors," he said. "I've learned a lot, especially working on my Honors thesis under the direction of Dr. (Shawn) Meagher."

While attending school full-time, Hensley has worked 24 hours a week in the MDH emergency room, with an additional 12 hours a week spent on call. He will continue paramedic work at MDH this summer before heading to medical school.

"I've really enjoyed my time at Western," Hensley said. "If I were to do it over again I wouldn't change a thing."

Photo of Mark Hensley.

The thermocycler uses temperature extremes to copy DNA.
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Photo of Mark Hensely and Scott Holt.

Hensley prepares to separate bands of DNA with a submarine electrophoresis gel unit in Western's biotechnology lab, under the guidance of Scott Holt, assistant professor and lab director.
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