As the Dartmouth community and the nation celebrate Veteran’s Day, honoring the sacrifices that American military members and their families have made for their country, Geisel is proud to recognize and thank its student, faculty, and staff veterans for their service in the U.S. Armed Forces.
While each student veteran’s circumstances and decision to enter the military are unique, they share a passion for defending the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and for healing those who are injured and sick.
Below, two of our Geisel student veterans reflect on some of the valuable lessons they learned while serving in the military and the impact of those experiences on their path to medicine.
Emily Pengelly ’23
A native of Portland, Oregon, Emily Pengelly attended the University of San Francisco on an Army ROTC scholarship, majoring in biochemistry. After graduation, she was commissioned into the Army where she served as an active duty officer for 15 years—rising to the rank of Major (04)—including a few tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan and a year in Germany.
“I was really lucky to have such a wide variety of assignments, jobs, and roles—including serving as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, as well as an evacuation platoon leader, medical logistics planner, and company commander,” says Pengelly, who participated as a CrossFit member and coach to find community during frequent moves and stay fit during deployments.
But she considers her position as a battalion physician assistant (PA), after completing the Interservice Physician Assistant Training Program, the most important and impactful role of all—an experience that confirmed her desire to become a doctor.
“I could write a novel about everything I learned from my time in the Army, but I think the big lessons have to do with prioritizing caring for those around you, valuing every member of the team as ‘most important,’ running at things that scare you, and taking ownership of problems to figure out fixes rather than just complaining,” says Pengelly, who worked as a PA in emergency departments in Maryland and Virginia before coming to Geisel.
“I think the reason I’m attracted to medicine is because it’s a team sport,” she explains. “It’s a business of caring for our fellow humans and provides constant opportunities for problem solving and improving your environment. I had amazing experiences in the Army (both good and bad), but my greatest takeaway is the people. I made friends for life from places and backgrounds I never would have met otherwise…and never would have imagined.”
Sean Turner ’23
Like Pengelly, Master Sergeant Sean Turner has an extensive service record. He joined the military after graduating from high school, completing tours in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and has now served a total of 17 years (a combination of active and guard time)—in the Army from 2002-2013 and in the Air Force from 2013 to present.
Prior to returning to school, Turner worked as a firefighter and a paramedic in both Cincinnati, Ohio (his hometown) and Indianapolis, Indiana for about 10 years between military deployments. “I worked in one of the rougher areas of Indianapolis by choice—I felt like I could do the most good there,” says Turner, who enjoyed providing education to patients as well as any urgent care that was needed.
While in the Air Force, he has worked as a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) officer—responsible for coordinating air strikes with Army and Marine units during battle—as well as a supervisor for many other TACPs. In this capacity, he served in Slovakia on several occasions to help strengthen NATO forces in the region, through the Indiana-Slovakia National Guard partnership.
Turner completed his undergraduate work at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in general studies (math and science concentration) with a minor in biology. He was awarded a Plater Medallion while at IUPUI for his military and paramedic service.
“One of the most valuable lessons I learned in the military was to be humble and listen to those around you, regardless of rank. A good idea is a good idea, no matter who came up with it,” says Turner. “My military experience has helped prepare me to be a physician by giving me many opportunities to practice remaining calm under pressure.”