HSC military veterans share their stories with the UNT System Board of Regents

BorpictureThey served as military police, medics and even as nuclear and mission operations officers. A trio of military veterans who are now students at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth told their stories of service and valor to the UNT System Board of Regents. Edgar Franco, Emma Kiefer and Linda Wolff, who are members of the United States Air Force, shared stories the highs and lows of their experiences in the military and all they overcame.

“It’s my honor to kick off the very special student session to introduce three veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Dr. Glen Forister, dean of HSC’s School of Health Professions. “HSC has been designated as a military-friendly institution for the last 13 years and our status went up from bronze to silver this year. I’m proud to introduce these students to you.”

Here are the stories of these HSC students who have represented their country and school with honor.

Edgar Franco, School of Health Professions DPT student, Class of 2024

A second-year physical therapy student and president of HSC’s Physical Therapy Student Association, Edgar Franco joined the United States Air Force in 2008 as a military policeman. He served for seven years with one tour in Iraq in 2010.

While just four months into his deployment to Iraq, Franco received life-changing news. He had cancer. He overcame cancer through what he credits as “an incredible team of doctors, oncologists, chemo moms and God.” He was declared cancer free in 2011 and finished his service in 2015.

It was then, he answered his second call to service in his next journey: pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science at UT-Arlington. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2018.

Before being accepted into the HSC Doctor of Physical Therapy program, Franco taught intermediate physical education, worked as a physical therapy technician and for a brief period of time was with the Dallas Fire Academy.

It was his desire to help veterans and first responders that led him to physical therapy. At HSC, he was a member of the Latino Medical Student Association and the president of the Physical Therapy Student Association. With graduation just a year away, Franco already has his next call to service in mind.

“I want to become a tactical physical therapist and work with military veterans and first responders,” Franco said. “I have always had a willingness to serve others and that has been my driving force to provide Physical Therapy for those who put their lives on the line for us.”

Emma Kiefer, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2023

Kiefer had a strong military presence in her family with multiple family members graduating from service academies. Her own service began when she joined the Air Force Academy in 2011 as a member of the volleyball team. Medicine, though, has always been a calling for her.

“Going into medicine has been a desire of mine since before college, but that shifted into what felt like a strong calling shortly after graduating from USAFA,” she said. “I was very fortunate to have leadership who supported my goals and helped me navigate the process of getting to medical school from active duty.”

Prior to arriving at TCOM in 2019 and after graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2015 with a degree in Biology, Kiefer got a unique assignment from the Air Force. She was selected as a nuclear and missile operations officer. She spent the next four years on active duty at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana.

“One of the many things I’ve picked up in my time in the military is that there is no singular path that takes you where you want to go,” she said. “In the environment that is medical school, comparing oneself to others is at times unavoidable. But just like our paths to graduation are uniquely different, so are our victories. Both the path and the victories are worth celebrating, despite how they compare to someone else’s.”

Kiefer will be commissioned and promoted to Captain in the United States Air Force at graduation. She matched in OBGYN at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

Linda Wolff, School of Public Health, Class of 2023

Wolff is a second-year MPH student in the School of Public Health at HSC. Before pursuing her higher-level education, Linda served eight years in the military as a medic in the Air Force. While serving her country, she worked in urgent care, ambulance services and pediatrics. Later during her service, Wolf specialized in allergy and immunizations.

“The military was a catalyst for personal growth and transformation,” Wolff said. “It was the realization that service to others is the cornerstone to growth. The invaluable experiences that I cultivated in the military are what ultimately led me to pursue my graduate-level education and to HSC.”

Wolff has taken that passion to making an impact directly on the lives of patients with her during her journey at HSC. She will graduate with a Master’s in Public Health with the aim at increasing awareness of the social determinants of health and to decrease disparities in health care practice through health systems transformation.

“I’m passionate about health care, process improvement and improving health outcomes,” Wolff said.

After graduation, Wolff will continue to serve, as she has been accepted into the Graduate Healthcare Administration Program with the Veterans Health Administration. Wolf hopes to be a great resource for the VHA and the entire veteran community.

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