One of the biggest challenges students face when even thinking about the idea of medical school is the massive student loans it takes to complete their education. Tanner Peebles, a 23-year-old Kite native, made a personal goal to begin medical school having no undergraduate student loans and was able to achieve this with the help of the Correll Scholars Program at East Georgia State College. After being accepted to Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, he was encouraged to apply for the National Health Service Corps (NHCS). The NHSC Scholarship includes full tuition, applicable fees, and a monthly stipend in exchange for years of medical service to a rural community.
Peebles attended Johnson County High School in Wrightsville and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology from East Georgia State College in Swainsboro last year. In high school, Peebles began working at Sumner Pharmacy in Wrightsville and worked there throughout undergrad before leaving for medical school. He enjoys photography, graphic design, and being outdoors. Peebles has two “amazing” parents, Donald and Cindy, and two older sisters, Tori and April.
When he started medical school in August, Peebles quickly learned the meaning of the old adage “trying to drink water out of a firehose.” He says that is the best analogy to describe his amazing yet intense experience. He is learning how to study and understand a massive amount of material every day, which has proven to be challenging but rewarding.
The idea of going to medical school has always been in the back of Peebles’ mind. When he was young, he would respond to emergency/first responder calls with his dad, which ultimately sparked an interest in medicine and service. Though he recognized this passion, he wasn’t sure of what path was meant for him. He considered going into pharmacy, like his sister, but ultimately chose to pursue a different avenue.
Emanuel Medical Center and Headley Surgical Clinic allowed Peebles to shadow a few physicians. It was in those places he discovered his love of the profession. Constant encouragement from experienced physicians, administration, and the community helped reinforce that medicine was the only path meant for him.
After pushing through the painstaking Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and application process, Peebles’ dream came true: he was accepted to The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
At their new branch in Moultrie, Peebles is now attending one of the most prestigious osteopathic schools in the nation. As of now, he plans on specializing in family medicine with a dual focus on pediatric and geriatric medicine, and he will do so debt-free, thanks to the National Health Service Corps.
Peebles applied for the National Health Service Corps Scholarship with very strong, local letters of recommendation and essays. When he received the scholarship in late September, Tanner explains that it was a pleasant surprise.
“I had already planned on returning to a rural area following graduation, and having no student loans after attending college for 12+ years is rarely heard of. ‘Ecstatic’ is the best word to describe what I felt because the dream of opening my own practice in a rural area became increasingly less daunting.The scholarship, alongside continuous support from my community, has reinforced how I can help offset the severe deficit people in rural areas face regarding access to medical care. Receiving this scholarship helps me to become part of the solution and help people who know and support my endeavors, and that is rewarding in itself.”
Peebles has a long road ahead of him—two years of in-class schoolwork followed by two years of clinical rotations, then a residency. Following completion of residency, he hopes to live in a rural area and open his own practice while also working at a hospital or health clinic.
This busy schedule and additional monetary commitment makes it easy to get discouraged, but Peebles explains that it is possible to find a balance.
`“My constant reminder when I am studying 45+ hours a week for challenging classes like medicinal biochemistry is a quote by Mark Reid which explains that we ‘are not studying simply to pass a test, but for the day when we are the only thing standing between a person and the grave.’”
Peebles encourages others planning on attending any medical profession to work diligently, learn effective study strategies, make connections, be compassionate, and apply for every scholarship available. Medical school is a large undertaking but, at the same time, is one that is extremely rewarding and obtainable, especially with the financial relief from the National Health Service Corps.