Passing along compassion

UC College of Medicine student and scholarship recipient wants to help underserved populations

Christopher Slack was a sophomore in high school when his mother had a double brain aneurysm and was given a five percent chance of survival.

Now in his second year of medical school at the University of Cincinnati, he says that experience convinced him: becoming a doctor was his calling.

“I was able to experience firsthand the kindness and compassion of physicians and the entire health staff,” he says. “I want to be there in that time of darkness for others.”

He says kindness also allowed him to pursue medical school at UC. Without his scholarship from the Association of Indian Physicians Medical Student Scholarship Endowment Fund, Christopher may not have been able to attend medical school. Established by the Cincinnati Chapter of the Association of Indian Physicians, the scholarship assists first year medical students with a demonstrated financial need.

Passing along compassion

family of four. Father, mom, daughter, son. Kids are teenagers.

Gregory, Lorna, Jacqueline and Christopher Slack in 2015.

The evening Christopher’s mother, Lorna, had a brain aneurysm in their Flagstaff, Arizona home, his family followed the ambulance to the hospital, thinking she had a stroke. They were met with a grim diagnosis and the medical team had her transported to the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix where Lorna had her first of four brain surgeries.

“On the second day, she woke up and said ‘I love you’ to all of us,’” Christopher recalls. “We knew it was going to be a difficult road but the fact that she remembered us and had executive function after being given a five percent chance to live was a miracle.”

“The doctor told us, ‘we’re going to do everything we can to get your mom back,’” he says. “What still sticks out to me today is how compassionate he was and how he treated us like family.”

A long road followed consisting of surgeries and physical therapy but by January of 2013, Lorna was back at work.

Inspired by a dedication to service

Christopher had always known he wanted to help others, especially after witnessing his father Gregory’s service in the United States Marine Corps. The care his mother received and his interest in science gave him a direction.

Other factors and personal experiences sharpened his decision. Prior to his mother’s illness, Christopher’s family was economically vulnerable when his father lost his job as a result of the 2009 housing crash. The family of four was living off his mother’s income as a medical assistant and the cost of her care made things more precarious. Paying for college was tough but Christopher persevered, working and living at home while attending Northern Arizona University and earning a bachelor’s of biomedical science.

My scholarship has not only provided significant assistance to me but it is also a commitment to developing physicians to help underserved populations.

Christopher Slack, COM ‘24

Being a native Hawaiian and living near Hopi and Navajo reservations in Flagstaff also influenced Christopher’s path to medical school. He has witnessed the obstacles underserved populations face in getting access to quality health care, and knows isolated populations, such as the Hawaiian islands where he was born, face similar barriers.

“It’s a two-hour drive from the reservation to Flagstaff where all of the health care resources are located,” he says. “And what if your ride falls through? There are running water issues and internet access is a barrier to telemedicine.

Christopher is determined to help serve this population after medical school and says his classes at UC are sharpening his knowledge.

“I just love my Physician and Society course because we think about the social determinants of health as physicians. We need to think of all aspects of a patients’ environment.”

“I will take the leap with patients and say, ‘I’m native Hawaiian myself and I understand what it’s like to be part of an underserved population. I’m here to help you.’ I hope that builds trust.”

Reflecting on his journey, Christopher expresses his appreciation for his scholarship and UC.

“I’m receiving a great education in Cincinnati and am super thankful,” he says. “My scholarship has not only provided significant assistance to me but it is also a commitment to developing physicians to help underserved populations.”

Featured image at the top: Christopher Slack. Photo/UC Alumni Association.

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