Just The Right Medicine

With equal doses of small-town roots, good grades and solid values, Frostburg State grad Jonathan Winter is following his dream to medical school at Hopkins.

May 28, 2001|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

FROSTBURG - In his senior year at Frostburg State University, Jonathan Winter had to take calculus, a requirement of some of the medical schools he hoped to attend. He had not taken any math since high school trigonometry when "I wasn't very good at it," he recalls.

Returning to math after years away would put fear into the hearts and minds of the best students. But Winter had come a long way during his years in college. He got an A in calculus -the same grade he has earned in every course he has taken at Frostburg State.

When Winter graduated Saturday with a double major in biology and psychology - almost 180 credits compiled during his five years on this campus in western Maryland - he was one of 10 students in a class of 504 with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

His story reads like something from the typewriter of a Hollywood scriptwriter - the small-town boy, inspired to discover his talents, makes good, but he never abandons the rock solid values that got him there.

Director Frank Capra used to make movies about such people - tall, good-looking men who were accomplished and admirable, yet soft-spoken and modest. They were always played by Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper in films such as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town."

You can imagine a scene from Winter's future envisioned in Capra's style. A Model A Ford skids on a rain-slick, country road, crashing into a tree. A pregnant woman is trapped in the car, badly injured. A frantic knock in the middle of the night, and the town doctor heads out into the storm to deliver a healthy baby and save the woman's life. Back in his sparsely furnished office, a diploma from a prestigious medical school hangs on the wall. This could have been that doctor's ticket to anywhere in the world, but he wanted to work here.

This fall, Jonathan Winter, 22, will enter the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Frostburg State officials think he is their first graduate to go to Hopkins med school. He plans to be a primary care physician, a general practitioner in an area like the one where he spent his teen-age years - Accident, Md., population 350, that puts its quaint name on a bend in a Garrett County road on the way to Deep Creek Lake.

"It's such an awesome school," Winter says of Hopkins. "I would like to bring that level of medical care to a place that doesn't usually get to see it."

When Winter was in middle school in a small town near Albany, N.Y., he read Benjamin Carson's book "Gifted Hands" that told of Carson's trek from the mean streets of Detroit to the operating rooms of the country's best hospitals. Carson is probably the premier pediatric neurosurgeon in the world. It was that book that made Winter dream of becoming a doctor.

"I realized you didn't have to come from a privileged background," he says.

Winter's family moved to Accident when he was in the ninth grade. At Northern Garrett High School, he recalls, he was a good, but not exceptional, student. Through his junior year, he says, he had a B average. But something happened his senior year.

"I had some good teachers," he says. "I took an art course that really opened up that side of my creativity. I realized I could get A's."

His senior year average was 93. Though his grades and his SAT score - a combined 1,260 - could have gotten him into many schools, he applied only to Frostburg State, not far from his home and his two brothers, who would follow him there over the next two years.

"I liked the size, the small classes," he says. "There are a lot of opportunities here. They might not be as evident as at a big university, but if you look you can find them."

In the first semester of his freshman year, Winter got all A's. He put that report card in his wallet and carried it around for months, pulling it out to look at it now and then. It made him proud and confident. He now knew he could get A's, and they kept coming.

Something else happened during that year. He was walking on campus when he saw a sign for a lecture by Benjamin Carson. "I hadn't even heard about it," he says. "I did a U-turn right there."

He found Carson's talk as inspiring as the book he had read years before, and he rededicated himself to a medical career. "The gym was packed," he says. "There was a big line. I didn't have time to wait to get my book autographed, I had to study for a biology test."

In a few weeks, Winter will be at Hopkins, where Carson is on the faculty.

Hands-on experience

Winter certainly took advantage of the opportunities he found at Frostburg State. Two years ago, he traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to deliver a paper to a joint meeting of the American and Russian nematode societies.

Winter had identified a new nematode - a type of worm - through a painstaking process that taught both the tedium and thrill of original scientific research.

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