Justin and his family at the Alaska WWAMI White Coat Ceremony in August 2011 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center
Alaska WWAMI School of Medical Education E’11
B.A. Justice ’11
Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska
Fun Fact: Enjoys riding his bicycle and would like to earn a degree in music performance, maybe after he graduates from medical residency
Medical student Justin Voss is in the process of taking his career from one end of the spectrum to the other. He knew after high school that he wanted to become a police officer, but at 18 years old, he wasn’t quite old enough to enroll in the police academy. To pass a few years’ time, Justin landed a job supervising the admitting process for the emergency room at Alaska Regional Hospital. As soon as his 21st birthday rolled around, Justin applied for the police academy and began the process of becoming a police officer with the Anchorage Police Department—a position he held for eight years.
In 2006, Justin decided it was time to go back to school to pursue a degree in justice. He enrolled in courses at UAA while continuing to work full time as a police officer.
“I chose UAA because it offered me the major I was interested in, and the scheduling allowed me to pursue my education while remaining employed,” he says. “Plus, in the end, UAA made the most sense financially and it allowed me to stay in a place that I love.”
Things changed for Justin in 2009 when he was injured in a highway accident while on duty. Justin and his fellow emergency responders had the highway closed for a fatal DUI-related accident, and while he was in his patrol car writing up his report of the incident, a car traveling at 80 mph rear-ended the back of his car.
Luckily, Justin made it out with his life, but two discs in his lower spine were severely damaged. He never recovered fully enough to maintain his career as a police officer. He temporarily worked as a detective for the police department before deciding to turn in his badge after eight years of service.
While Justin was working toward his justice degree at UAA (which he earned in 2011), he was also tackling prerequisites for med school on the side, just in case. Turns out that this was a good move, because he was adequately prepped to apply for medical school after he left the Anchorage Police Department. “Being a physician is the only other career that I can see myself doing,” he says.
After being accepted into a handful of medical schools across the U.S., Justin ultimately chose the Alaska WWAMI School of Medical Education because of its small cohort of 20 students and the endless opportunities to shape his education.
“I’m very blessed to be in the company of some incredibly brilliant and inspiring people,” Justin says. “Sometimes I think my file was accidentally mixed up in the ‘accept pile.'”
Justin explains that his justice degree from UAA will help him in his daily interactions as a future physician. “As a physician, I will need to make sound treatment decisions based in science,” he says. “Having a degree related to human interaction, ethics, justice and psychology will allow me to relate to people in an understanding way and address socioeconomic problems that relate to their health care.”
The WWAMI program is structured so that students spend their first year at their home campus and their second year at the University of Washington School of Medical Education in Seattle. Cohorts from all the WWAMI states—Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho—gather in Seattle for their second year before embarking on their third and fourth year clinicals at various rural locations across the five-state region.
Justin—currently in his second year in Seattle—doesn’t know yet where he’ll end up for the next phase of his medical education, but he looks forward to the doors that are opening in front of him. “I can do whatever I want; I don’t feel limited at all.”
Justin’s wife, a police officer, was able to find a job in Washington and make the move south while Justin works toward his medical education. Eventually, the couple hopes to return home to Alaska, where Justin plans to work in emergency medicine or oncology.