Rising above challenges, members of TCOM’s Class of 2023 ready for Match Day: Samantha Hustak
Samantha Hustak remembers the taunts as a little girl. Katie Walter will never forget the day she got the news her athletic career was over. At the age of 45, Rachael Haines, a wife and mother of four, was ready for medical school and Clarence Sparks, a one-time college dropout, is now ready to head home to Midland to help his community.
These students from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine have persevered, overcome and are now ready to reach the pinnacle of their medical school careers, Match Day.
Hearing loss, concussions, doubt, and juggling a family, each TCOM student is inspirational to their classmates and the profession they are about to enter. These are a few of the stories of TCOM’s Class of 2023. Today we meet Samantha Hustak.
Samantha Hustak’s journey to Match Day
Hustak was in her Kindergarten class listening to music, but to her teacher, it didn’t appear that way. She noticed that Hustak was struggling to hear like the other students. A visit to an audiologist revealed that Hustak was born with hearing loss and needed hearing aids.
“I was embarrassed by them and I was teased by the kids,” she said.
Growing up, Hustak was very interested in science and dreamed of a career in medicine. She knew that despite her own dislike of hearing aids, she couldn’t get the good education she needed without them.
Having to go to see a physician regularly with her hearing loss, Hustak started looking up to her pediatrician as a role model and knew she wanted to do the same.
Without her hearing aids, Hustak’s ability to hear a conversation is akin to just the sounds of mumbling. Sometimes, she would avoid large gatherings or crowds because she was worried she wouldn’t be able to hear any of the conversations. Despite the struggles, Hustak started to embrace her hearing loss.
“As I got older, I started to embrace them and it motivated me,” Hustak said. “I wasn’t going to let this hearing loss identify me and stop me from reaching my dreams.”
At TCOM, she has taken her own life experience and already put them into action. While on rotation, Hustak encountered a patient who was in middle school and had to wear hearing aids. The girl hated her hearing aids and was embarrassed by having to wear them. Hustak knew exactly what to do.
“I thought, ‘This is my moment,’ and I just sat down with her and took my hearing aids out to show her,” Hustak said. “I have been through this exact same feeling, and you just want to be the same as everyone else. That’s what I wanted her to know.”
Throughout her journey, Hustak has leaned on her faith to guide her through difficult moments.
“I have a very close relationship with the Lord, and his paintbrush didn’t slip,” she said. “He wants me to use my hearing loss to reach kids who have these insecurities and let them know there is a such a better life for them.”
Hustak herself isn’t quite done having to overcome obstacles as she prepares for residency. Learning how to use a stethoscope is something medical students learn early in school, but for Hustak that journey is still continuing. Taking her hearing aids out to use a stethoscope has brought on many challenges, but technology is on her side. Upon graduation, she plans to get hearing aids with Bluetooth technology that can be paired up with a stethoscope — just one more hurdle for Hustak to clear as she achieves her dream.
“I did feel like I had something to prove,” Hustak said. “I wanted to show people that just because I have hearing loss, it was not going to stop me from becoming a physician.”