Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars program. The ARH Scholars are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare. Their stories are unique, but a common thread unites every winner: a desire to make a difference to the people of Appalachia through healthcare. The Fall 2019 class of ARH Scholars included ten talented future healthcare providers, like Lukas Ritchie.
A senior at Knott County Central High School, on the academic team, and ready to attend the University of Louisville in the fall 2020 semester, Lukas has a full schedule and big plans for the future. “I toured several colleges, but UofL was my favorite tour” Lukas says. “I’m planning to major in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, pre-med. I want to be a doctor of pathology.”
Lukas has always been exposed to science and the medical field in particular. “My mom is a science teacher and my dad is a physician assistant at ARH. A lot of my family is in the medical field.” Seeing his father’s interactions with patients has enforced Lukas’ desire to give back to the community. “I’ve always seen my dad taking care of people, and they’re always so grateful. He makes a difference in the lives of his patients, and I’d like to do the same.”
Touring Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center gave Lukas an appreciation for the intricate systems within the hospital environment itself. “When I toured ARH, I shadowed different doctors, my dad, the radiologist, the medical lab techs, and the pathologists. Pathology was the most interesting to me. There’s something really amazing about being able to look through a microscope and see the little pieces that cause such big problems, and then use that information to solve those problems and treat people.”
After shadowing medical professionals and volunteering at Hazard ARH Regional Medical Center, Lukas says that seeing how all of the different departments of the hospital work together to help patients get better was extremely compelling. “Understanding how all of the moving parts of a hospital fit together, I knew I wanted to be a part of that process of healing people in my community.” That’s why ultimately, years down the road, Lukas envisions himself working at ARH. “I want to end up back in my hometown area,” he says. “I don’t really like big cities too much and I always imagine myself settling in the country. I’ve lived here my whole life, and these are the people that I really want to help.”
Lukas says that his parents and teachers have been his biggest mentors. “I always go to my mom when I’m second-guessing myself and she reassures me,” he says. “And I’ve had tons of teachers who have encouraged me and bolstered my confidence about what I can do with my life. I can’t even name them all!” It was Lukas’ teachers who suggested that he apply for the ARH Scholars program, which was one of the first scholarships that Lukas had ever received.
Ultimately Lukas has three goals that he hopes to achieve through obtaining his doctorate. “First, I want to show myself that I can do it. I know it’s not going to be easy, and paying for it isn’t going to be easy, but I want to prove to myself that I’m capable of this. Second, as I’ve mentioned, I want to give back to my community. Third, I want to inspire the next generation of young people. I have a younger brother, and I want to show him that with enough hard work and determination, you can do anything.”