FLORENCE, S.C. —
Though Luke Fennell graduated Saturday from Francis Marion University, his education isn’t finished yet.
Fennell, who graduated with a biology degree, will continue his education at the Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Spartanburg in July.
When Fennell started at FMU, he was a pre-nursing major, but he decided to change his direction to biology after his family physician talked him into it.
Vernon Bauer, the chair of the biology department, served as a source of guidance for Fennell. Bauer helped Fennell get all of his things in order for his medical school application.
The guidance of faculty, like Bauer, is what was most impactful to Fennell during his time at FMU. The professors were always available to Fennell and helped guide him in his path toward medical school.
During his time at FMU, Fennell took part of several opportunities the university had to offer. Fennell spent some of his summer at the FMU WildSumaco Biological Research Station and traveled to England as an FMU honors ambassador.
“Those were chances to sort of broaden my horizons and see things from a different perspective, get first-hand experience of how big the world really is and get the experience some of the other cultures,” Fennell said.
Fennell also conducted research on gene therapy on viral vectors for his honors thesis. Fennell said the research was a huge part of his medical school application process, which gave him an edge when applying.
“Just getting that rare opportunity to work with a faculty member, a Ph.D. faculty member, on the cutting-edge research is something that I don’t think I would have had otherwise if I go to another institution.”
In addition to going to medical school next year, Fennell will be going through officer training for the U.S. Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, where he will be going through a specialty branch in the medical field.
“I’ve always wanted to go into the military, and the HPSP Scholarship Program for the medical professionals was absolutely incredible, as this offers great benefits,” Fennell said. “So, I always knew I wanted to go into the military, whether it was in the midst of or after school, so it just sort of all fit together.”
VCOM was Fennell’s first choice for medical school. Fennell said VCOM’s mission aligns with his own personal mission: to be in South Carolina to take care of those in the rural communities.
Upon finishing medical school and his time in the U.S. Air Force, Fennell said he would like to return to the Pee Dee to practice medicine, because there is a need for primary-care physicians in the small towns in the region.
“I see that growing here in the Pee Dee region, and so I think that this is a need that I could fill,” Fennell said. “I think it’s what I’ve been called to do, and I want to come back home and serve the community through that capacity.”