“I think the care I’ve provided for critically injured soldiers pushed me to want to learn more, so I could do more for them.”
At age 22, Chris Heins dropped out of college. With little drive and no real plan, Heins was looking for a sense of direction, discipline in his life and an opportunity to reset. That opportunity came in 2009, when he enlisted in the United States Army as a Combat Medic Specialist (68W) and found a higher purpose.
After three years of active duty service, Heins felt the call to do more. He transitioned to the Army Reserve in order to attend the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing in pursuit of becoming an Emergency Room Nurse (66T).
After graduating and becoming an emergency nurse, Heins again began to feel the call to do more. “I think the care I’ve provided for critically injured soldiers pushed me to want to learn more, so I could do more for them,” Heins said. That drive alongside the mentorship and confidence of the physicians he worked with while serving is what led him down his admittedly complicated route to medical school.
He credited his prior service with giving him the skills and drive to continue his academic career, saying, “I would certainly not be here now if not for the mental fortitude I learned during my enlisted time. My ability to simply put my head down and grind helped get me to this point and it has been a boon in my schooling so far.”
His drive and mental fortitude pushed him to achieve his goal of doing everything he can to care for ill and injured soldiers. “Emergency medicine is the most immediate way for me to provide care closest to the point-of-wounding, during the most critical period of patient care,” he said.
Heins’ daily schedule shows his commitment to his mission. He starts his day at the gym at 4:45 a.m. From there, he arrives home to help his son get ready for school. He reviews the previous day’s class notes over breakfast and is off to attend mandatory lectures until noon. His afternoons consist of more study time and participation in extracurricular groups such as the Emergency Medicine Student Association and the Military Health Interest Group. Even with this hectic schedule, he still picks his son up from school, prepares dinner, and eats with his family every night before prepping for the next day.
While he recognizes that military medicine was the best path for him, it may not be the best for all. “I certainly encourage anyone considering military medicine to talk with someone who previously served,” Heins encouraged. “There are so many small things that never occurred to me prior to serving. San Antonio has a glut of current and former military doctors, the vast majority of whom are willing to talk to students about their experiences. Use this network to find a mentor who can tell you what to expect within your chosen specialty, as it could be totally different from a civilian experience.”
Heins’ story reminds us of what it takes to pursue the higher calling in life – hard work, dedication, and perseverance.
 Definition of boon: a timely benefit
 Definition of glut: an excessive quantity