For Jonathan Stormer, heading to medical school this fall isn't just about pursuing his dreams, it's a symbol of his very unusual path to an undergraduate degree and the strong support he received from UMPI faculty and staff members along the way.
Stormer has crammed a lot of work into a short two and a half years to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a pre-med concentration. But this effort was more than a decade in the making.
In 1999, Stormer began pursuing a four-year degree at a private college. He ended up with two degrees, moved to Maine, and taught at the Greater Houlton Christian Academy for three years. A long-time desire to pursue a medical career eventually brought him to UMPI, where he hoped to complete some prerequisites toward becoming a chiropractor. He learned, however, that the private college he graduated from was non-accredited, meaning that no accredited schools would accept his credits.
"That meant I had to start from scratch," Stormer remembered.
He took a few classes through the Houlton Higher Education Center in 2008, and started full-time on the Presque Isle campus in 2009. Early on, Dr. Bonnie Wood talked with him about becoming a doctor instead of a chiropractor.
"No one in my family went to college, so even thinking about being a doctor was very intimidating, but she assured me I was a very strong student and that gave me the confidence to do it," Stormer said.
Just a year into this work, his first son Atlas was born and diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. Stormer and his wife Meredith made the difficult decision to move to southern Maine to be near the only CF clinic in the state. Stormer took a year and a half off from his studies to focus on his family. Ultimately, though, he knew he'd have to do something else, or finish his degree.
Returning to school meant an extremely daunting course load—and on top of that Stormer's second son Corban was born in 2012—but he persisted. Through a lot of coordination with the Office of Student Records and his professors, Stormer was able to finish his degree by taking a hybrid of live classes at UMPI, online classes, science classes through the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine in Orono that transferred back to his UMPI degree, and earning college credit through CLEP tests.
Stormer said he found the lectures by UMPI's science faculty members, like Dr. Bob Pinette and Dr. Mike Knopp, to be as in-depth as anything he experienced elsewhere in the state and their labs to be much more hands-on. He also found the smaller class sizes to be a major benefit.
"The teachers know you more personally, which is huge when you need letters of recommendation for medical school," he said. "At UMPI, you're family."
Stormer has been accepted to the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine in North Carolina. His plan is to go through the four-year program there and complete a three- to seven-year residency so he can become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Stormer and his family are feeling blessed that this opportunity will allow Atlas to have access to one of the top ranked Cystic Fibrosis clinics in America, located at nearby Duke University. Stormer is quick to point out, though, that things could have ended up much differently.
"If it wasn't for Kathy Davis and my professors and the way they worked around my schedule and my needs to make this happen, I wouldn't have been able to make it work," he said. "None of this would have happened without UMPI."