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Brian Greathouse, Albion College, soccer

Shutting out doubts of premed courses

By Michelle Hiskey

The dreams of many premed students end with organic chemistry. That’s when Brian Greathouse knew he wanted to be a doctor.

Going the other way is what goalkeepers do, after all.

“Until I took that class, I thought there was no way I’d be a chemistry major,” he said. “But organic chemistry taught me to see everyday reactions, like what happens when someone drinks alcohol instead of water. That drew me in, and what was a weeding-out class pushed me forward.”

Long before scoring in the 99th percentile on the Medical College Admission Test, Greathouse had already done plenty of time in hospitals. From age 8 to 16, he watched his grandparents rotate through a series of healthcare institutions, for treatments related to a back disorder, to injuries from a car accident, to cancer.

“I learned the intricacies, that there was more to being a physician than just helping people,” said Greathouse. “There’s clinical research and administration. Once I realized a lot of those possibilities, the idea of a career in medicine turned on for me…. the whole path is more intricate than I thought.”

Last summer, Greathouse worked at Detroit Receiving Hospital, a Level 1 trauma center where nearly 60 percent of Michigan’s emergency doctors are trained. Greathouse worked on two major studies related to faster, more accurate ways to diagnose traumatic brain injuries. One focused on sports injuries such as concussions. “That was pretty cool that it would be used in an area I was familiar with,” he said.

As he considered the rapidly changing field of healthcare, Greathouse used his goalkeeper’s mindset to assess his career options and put himself in the best position. He is interested in getting a medical degree jointly with an MBA, to work first as an emergency room physician and then in hospital administration. 

 “As an emergency room doctor (the pressure) will be on his shoulders,” said Albion head men’s soccer coach Jerry Block.

Playing soccer “has given him the confidence to handle high-pressure situations,” Block said. “As the goalkeeper, he has been the last line of defense and everyone sees if he makes a save or allows a goal.”

“I don’t like not having control over a situation,” Greathouse agreed. “I wouldn’t mind having a say in the whole healthcare overhaul, and avoid some of its effects. I know I can either try to change it, or be affected by it. As a goalie, I’m not dependent on others when the ball comes to me; it all comes down to what I do. I take it on my own shoulders, and the sense of accomplishment I get form that outweighs the negatives.”

His professor in that seminal organic chemistry course, Cliff Harris, likes Greathouse’s mental makeup. He says it will match up well with emergency medicine.

“The psychological aspects of the game and the medical field might be more important than most people think,” Harris said. “Especially for the keepers, like Brian, constant focus and then exactly the right decision at exactly the right time are required for success. These are important in parts of medicine as well.”

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer and a former golf student-athlete at Duke.