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Born and raised in Asheboro, NC, fourth-year medical student Austin Allen initially saw himself as a skilled aviator, but it wasn’t until his senior year in high school when he decided to navigate the world of medicine.

Fourth-year medical student Austin Allen is pursuing his residency training in neurosurgery. He explains what he loves most about medical school at UNC and why he began to consider becoming a physician.

Q. What interested you the most in high school and college? Did you always want to be a doctor?

In high school, I thought I wanted to be a pilot. I had always been fascinated by flying, and fortunately, one of my friends came from a family of pilots. His Dad was a pilot for American, and they owned a small 4-seater plane. I went and flew with them, thoroughly enjoying the first few minutes – until I became extremely air sick. I am still fascinated by planes but was not built for the turbulence that can sometimes happen. It was not until late in my senior year of high school that I became interested in medicine and becoming a physician.

Q. Why did you choose to become a doctor?

I began to seriously consider becoming a physician after experiences with a wrist injury. I wanted to have an impact on others like the physician had on me. This prompted me to explore shadowing with doctors from a variety of specialties, and I came to love the combination of science, technical expertise, and opportunity for direct patient interaction. I enjoy learning and studying medicine but also thoroughly enjoy being able to interact with and serve patients.

Q. What is the most interesting part of medical school at Carolina?

One of the most interesting parts of medical school at UNC is Application Phase, which consists of the classic third-year medical student rotations. It is a very stereotyped year, but I found this to be the most rewarding period of medical school because it was the first time I was involved in the clinical setting nearly every day. I feel fortunate to have had extremely supportive residents and attending physicians mentoring me during this time, which made for a very enjoyable year. UNC is also unique in the fact that Application Phase rotations can be completed at a variety of sites. I think there are awesome opportunities at every campus, but I rotated in Wilmington, and I cannot say enough positive things about the experience (and the rest of my education at UNC).

Q. What do you plan to focus on after med school (residency in what and where)?

I am pursuing residency training in neurosurgery, and I was extremely excited to match at Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) in Charlotte, NC. I completed a four-week away rotation at CMC last summer, which was another highlight of my medical school experience. So I am very happy to be returning for residency training.

Q. What is your career goal?

I am still refining my clinical interests within neurosurgery, but I have particularly enjoyed spine, endovascular, skull base, and pediatric neurosurgery. One of the things I like about neurosurgery is the diversity of cases, and I hope to end up in a practice managing the full breadth of neurosurgical pathologies on call, while also maintaining a subspecialty interest. My wife and I are both from North Carolina and hope to stay in-state for practice as an attending physician after finishing residency.