KOKOMO, Ind. – A high school football injury inspired a career goal for one Indiana University Kokomo graduate.
Tanner Langley discovered a love for orthopedic surgery because of care he received while recovering from a broken leg. His degree in biological and physical sciences has prepared him for the next step — going to medical school.
“My orthopedic surgeon made a big impact on me, with how he was able to help me,” said Langley, from Tipton. “He let me come and watch a surgery, and since then, I haven’t had any occupation in mind other than trying to become an orthopedic surgeon.”
The surgeon, and other IU Health Tipton doctors Langley met were IU School of Medicine graduates, and encouraged him to consider IU himself. He enrolled at IU Kokomo immediately after graduation, but after a semester, realized he wasn’t ready for college.
“I genuinely didn’t think I was mature enough to take school as seriously as I needed to, to get the grades I needed to go to medical school,” he said. “If I destroyed my grade point average, there would be no recovering.”
After working a few years, he returned to IU Kokomo, and began making connections with faculty. Those relationships have prepared him for the rigors of medical school, which he hopes to begin in 2021.
“I’m not just getting the classes I need, but they are also providing hands-on experiences,” Langley said. “You don’t have big classes, so you can easily walk up to a professor and ask a question. It feels very personal.”
Those types of connections provided experiences like researching and publishing in ornithology with Lina Rifai, associate professor of vertebrate biology, and Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) class trips to Yellowstone National Park, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area.
“These KEY trips give you an opportunity to experience what you’re learning in the classroom first-hand, which is really important to becoming a better scientist down the road,” he said. “Learning from a book in a classroom can be tedious sometimes, but applying what you’ve learned is really cool.”
Rifai’s classes helped him discover an enjoyment of bird watching, a hobby he’s continued even after graduating in December 2019. He met her while taking an evolution and biology class, and she convinced him to enroll in her introductory ornithology class the next semester. She also helped him obtain an internship at a bird rehabilitation center.
“The more I learned about birds, the more I became interested,” he said. “It was never something I saw myself doing, but I found it interesting. I’m an avid bird watcher now.”
He earned his degree while working 50 to 60 hours per week for IU Health Hospitals as a licensed insurance agent. During 12-hour shifts in emergency room at seven campuses, he worked with uninsured patients to help them access insurance. While it wasn’t direct medical care, it was a foot in the door, he said.
“Having a great understanding of health insurance, and knowing how to help patients get it, can be helpful in their time of need,” Langley said.
He looks forward to being able to serve people in the medical profession.
“A lot of people choose to become doctors because their family wants them to,” he said. “I genuinely care about people, and I think that’s the best reason to become a doctor.”
He gives credit for that wish to do good to his mother, Dawn Myers, and said she’s excited that he graduated.
“My mother was a phenomenal mother,” he said. “She was incredible to raise two boys on her own, and she’s so proud of what I’ve accomplished.”