Putting a visual mind to work in medical school

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

a%20portrait%20of%20Woody%20GreenWoody Green loves his hometown of Austin. He was born in a house off 11th Street and can’t imagine living anywhere else. And it seems Austin is looking out for him as well.

As 37-year-old Green (B.A., Studio Art, 2002) decided to go after his dream and apply for medical school, Austin brought the opportunity to him. The artist-paramedic landed one of the 50 coveted slots in the Dell Medical School’s inaugural class in June 2016.

“It’s serendipity,” he said. “I would ride my bike down there during application process, and it felt like destiny. Like this is where I’m supposed to be. I’ve never felt that way ever.”

Green began his college career in 1997 at The University of Texas at Austin as a biology and pre-med major. But, he also enjoyed art—particularly sculpting and working with clay. So he switched majors to get into studio classes, as he continued to take science courses as his electives. After graduation, he struggled to find his place in the art world.

“Trying to make a living with art sucked the fun out of it for me,” Green said.

He ultimately applied to Austin Community College to become a paramedic, which he did for a decade.

“It’s a fun career, and I learned a lot,” Green said. “I learned extroverted skills. I learned skills to be able to talk to people—to anybody—and to solve the problem and be the cool head in the room. Then I got a little bored.”

The thought of medical school was always looming in his mind, but it was the birth of his daughter—now aged 4—that ignited his desire to go for it.

“I realized … I can’t expect her to go after her dreams when I never did,” he said. “I gave it all I’ve got and here I am. It’s been a whirlwind.”

His artistic roots are still visible in his note-taking. Green said he often draws as a learning and communication tool. He feels that sharing his drawings with classmates helps in discussions.

“On a deeper level, I feel like I have a very visual mind, and I have training in 3D. It helps me model things in my head better than I might otherwise be able to do,” Green said. “Especially in clay, you have to have faith in the process and the learning. You can’t be afraid to work really hard and then have to go back to the drawing board after tons of work.”

But it wasn’t just Dell Medical School’s location that drew Green in. It’s also the school’s mission.

“A lot of people talk about changing health care,” he said. “Every other place I interviewed at and talked to was hamstrung in their inertia. You can only move institutions so fast, because they are set in their ways.

“Dell Medical School is the only one that I talked to that is publicly funded. Other medical schools are funded by profits from private medicine or from the hospitals they are affiliated with. That hamstrings their ability to make meaningful change,” he continued. “And to have a mandate from the community to return that—I really like that.”