Meet Blake Samsill, a Scottsdale native in pursuit of a medical degree — a profession he’s been chasing since childhood.
Following his dream, Samsill enrolled in HonorHealth’s medical explorers club while in high school. And as they say, the rest is history.
“Medical explorers club was the perfect opportunity as it allowed me to gain more exposure to the healthcare field, so as I was going into college, I knew that I was on the path that I was right for me,” Samsill said.
While other high school students might be employed at entry-level jobs, Samsill was volunteering in an emergency room.
“I can remember looking into the OR windows as a ‘medical explorer,’ and now I am assisting with surgeries. I hope to one day return to HonorHealth as a practicing physician,” said Samsill. “I think that would be an incredible full circle journey.”
Samsill enjoyed his experience volunteering with the local hospital so much, he sought his nurses license while still in high school and gained employment with HonorHealth soon after before enrolling at the University of Arizona for his undergraduate degree. Next, he’s on his way to medical school.
Get to know Samsill and his pursuit to be a medical professional in the Scottsdale community by reading more from him, below:
Q: How did you hear about the medical explorers club?
A: While I was attending Pinnacle High School, I saw an advertisement for a new program that was being developed at HonorHealth TPK. I heard this was the first time a program was being developed like this, and they were looking for high school students to take on leadership roles and help develop the organization. I attended the first few meetings of the organization and soon became president of the club for its first two years.
Q: When did you get involved?
A: I got involved during my junior and senior years of high school (2015-17).
Q: Why did you get involved?
A: Ever since fourth grade, I knew that I wanted to become a doctor. During high school, I wanted to further my interests in medicine and join a club to get more exposure in medicine, but there were not any offered. Medical explorers club was the perfect opportunity as it allowed me to gain more exposure to the healthcare field, so as I was going into college, I knew that I was on the path that I was right for me.
Q: What did I learn, and did it lead to me getting into the healthcare profession?
A: I learned all about the different careers in medicine — from doctors, residents, medical students, physician assistants, nurses, respiratory therapy, physical therapy etc. We had lectures and presentations led by medical professionals telling us about the path to get to their profession along with some of their favorite parts of their jobs. I helped design each meeting to have a “theme,” so students could get a well-rounded idea of what each profession included.
During one meeting we learned about orthopedic surgery. During this meeting an orthopedic surgeon came and talked to us about his career. After, he led a demonstration on how to put casts on for bone fractures. All the students put casts on one another. Students were then able to go down into the OR and see some of the equipment used in orthopedic surgery (such as the Hana table for anterior hip replacements). During another meeting we learned about respiratory therapy. We brought in a few trachea/lungs of pigs and intubated them so we could study the anatomy and see how the lungs inflated and deflated with incoming/outgoing air.
We then toured the ICU to see ventilators and how they are used on patients (simulated on a mannequin). Afterwards we attended a discussion about chronic diseases affecting airways such as COPD and asthma — led by a group of RTs.
Q: What am I doing now for HonorHealth?
A: The medical explorers club gave me the professional contacts and resources to get involved with HonorHealth. During high school I became a volunteer in the emergency room at HonorHealth Thompson Peak. From volunteering I became a two-time scholarship recipient though HonorHealth (2019) HonorHealth Advisory Council Scholarship Recipient (2017) HonorHealth Golden Anniversary Scholarship Recipient.
In June of 2019, I started working in surgery as an Operating Room Assistant.
As an ORA, I have had the special opportunity to help assist with a wide range of orthopedic and general surgeries. I have learned so much about medicine such as the types of surgeries involved with orthopedic, spine, general, urology and gynecology. I have become familiar with the steps in surgeries, tools and equipment used.
I have also been able to work with the incredible nurses, surgical techs and OR techs that are the true backbones of the operating rooms. I can remember looking into the OR windows as a “medical explorer,” and now I am assisting with surgeries. I hope to one day return to HonorHealth as a practicing physician. I think that would be an incredible full circle journey.
Q: Where am I now?
A: Attending UW-Madison for medical school! UW is an incredible medical school — a “Big 10” public Ivy League University, that is nationally ranked along with the UW-Health hospital that is paired with the College of Medicine.
I am a gay man, so when choosing a medical school, it was especially important for me to attend a university that fully supports me as not only a student but a person.
UW is extremely supportive of LGBTQ+ students, as they are the first university to have a LGBTQ+ fellowship designed to support the health and wellness of queer people in medicine. I am also interested in doing research in cancer. The Carbone Cancer Center at UW is the first cancer research center founded by a US university.
Q: What do I want to do when I am done with school?
A: Right now, I am really interested in orthopedic surgery. I have been able to assist with a lot of orthopedic surgeries such as total knee, hip, and shoulder replacements. I find it so incredible to witness and be a part of the process of improving the quality of life for a patient. Truly making a difference in patient’s pain levels, range of motion and quality of life. It is also amazing seeing the technological advancements in orthopedic surgery, such as using robotic programs (such as the Styker Mako Robot) to create perfect, customized surgical plans for patients.
Q: Advice for younger people interested in medicine.
A: I would recommend taking advantage of the opportunities that are available for you. If you are in high school and are interested in medicine — think about volunteering in a hospital. You get such great experience seeing how hospital systems work and you can make some great contacts.
During high school I got my nursing assistant license before I graduated. From this experience I was able to get hands on patient care and develop my bedside manners. Empathy is an especially important and powerful tool to have in medicine.
A huge piece of advice that I have is to not give up. The journey to becoming a doctor is a marathon, not a sprint — intense college courses, research, the MCAT exam, volunteering, getting clinical experiences etc. I can remember calling my mom during my years in undergrad upset because all of my friends would be hanging out, going out to bars or parties on Friday nights or the weekends, and I was stuck in the library studying. You definitely sacrifice your early 20s to study, which can be hard at times, but so worth it. If I could do it all over again I 100% would.
Q: Summarize my experience with the volunteer program?
A: Joining the volunteer program was one of the best decisions I made in my career. I was able to work in the emergency room and learn so much about medicine at such a young age — heart attacks, broken bones, arterial lacerations, cardiac codes etc. It gave me the resources and contacts to further my own passion in medicine — allowing me to get my job working in surgery as an ORA. I was able to connect with some incredible directors, volunteers, nurses, doctors, and techs that I still maintain a relationship with to this day.
Q: What would I say to someone considering a career at HonorHealth?
A: I hope to one day return to HonorHealth as a practicing physician. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that have been provided to me from HonorHealth. The staff that I work with are beyond incredible. I genuinely look forward to each and every shift, as I am able to make a difference in patients’ lives and work with some extremely talented individuals.
Something that I have learned is that working in medicine has its ups and downs. There are going to be some extremely challenging or stressful days — and that will happen anywhere you go. But what has helped me through those tough days are the amazing nurses, surgical techs and doctors that I work with. They are beyond supportive, kind and encouraging. They are family to me.
Q: A little bit about me.
A: I am born and raised from Scottsdale. Got my bachelors from the University of Arizona, Honors College in 2021 with my degree in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science with a minor in biochemistry.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A was submitted to the Daily Independent by HonorHealth.