Looking back, Devon Taylor says he never would have believed he’d have the opportunities that have presented themselves. From high school dropout to Harvard Medical School M.D. seemed like a long shot, to say the least. His story is one of overcoming seemingly insurmountable adversity through hard work, diligence, dedication, and effective mentoring.
“Devon was exposed to the… hopelessness that accompanies living in poverty.”
Devon was born in the poverty-stricken city of Flint, Michigan. His mother and father separated before he was born. Just before age three, his stepfather was murdered in front of him, his mother, his newborn brother and grandmother in their apartment. They relocated to another house, where a person was stabbed to death directly across the street on the day they moved in. Devon lived there until age 18. It was riddled with bullet holes. Although Devon’s parents forbid him from hanging out in the dangerous neighborhood, Devon was exposed to drug deals, violent crimes, and to the feelings of hopelessness that accompanies living in poverty.
“It seemed more like a prison than a school.”
Devon attended Flint Northern High School, a predominantly African American school in Flint’s north side. According to Devon, “the environment of the school was anything but conducive to learning; I [felt] I was set-up for failure from the beginning.” Nevertheless, in his first semester of High School, Devon earned straight A’s. However, in his second semester, Devon succumbed to his feelings of hopelessness, turning his A’s to E’s and earning a 0.666 GPA. No guidance counselor, teacher, principle, or administrator bothered to ask how or why this drastic change occurred. “It was expected of us,” says Devon. With a dropout rate topping 75%, Devon was the rule, not the exception. He had given up; Stopped going to school. Missing as many as 40 days one semester, he eventually dropped out at the end of the 11th grade, having only barely achieved sophomore status.
Over the summer, Devon ultimately decided quitting was a bad decision, but he couldn’t return to Flint Northern. Instead, he attended an alternative school for truants, troublemakers, and outcasts called Flint Schools of Choice. It seemed more like a prison than a school. “There were locked gates, guards, metal detectors, random locker inspections, and police officers.” However, the work-at-your-own-pace policy presented an opportunity to catch up and graduate on time. After taking over 20 courses in one year, he had brought his grade up and earned enough credits to graduate with his original class.
“His ability to excel …ultimately gave him the courage to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a physician.”
While at Flint Schools of Choice, Devon’s mother counseled her son to keep in contact with a Navy recruiter. He took the military entrance exam known as the ASVAB, scoring extremely high and was accepted into the Navy’s elite Nuclear Power Program, a program considered to be the most academically rigorous in the U.S. military. Three days after his eighteenth birthday, he set off for boot camp; his life would be forever changed.
While in school with some of the brightest people in the Navy, he was a high academic achiever. After two years of “nuke” school and training, he became a nuclear power plant operator and technician. Devon rose through the ranks, having the responsibility of supervising the power plants, leading power plant emergency response teams, and overseeing the electrical maintenance of the plants. His ability to excel in this demanding field ultimately gave him the courage to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a physician.
“Fueled by those passions, he completed his degree in fewer than three years, …with a 4.0 GPA and …ranking #1 in the Class…”
Having served eight years in Norfolk, VA, Devon decided to enroll as a Public Health major at Old Dominion University. Although many advisors encouraged him to pursue a degree in the basic sciences, he chose to follow his heart. “Impassioned by the lethal and debilitating effects of chronic diseases on my community, the decision to pursue a public health education was an easy one.” Much of his undergraduate coursework highlighted the many problems and pitfalls in the current health care system. He became determined to not only become a competent physician, but an advocate for those who are underserved by medicine. Fueled by those passions, he completed his degree in fewer than three years, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a final ranking of #1 in the Class of 2012.
“M.D. Candidate at Harvard Medical School, Class of 2016.”
Devon is a M.D. Candidate at Harvard Medical School, Class of 2016. Although he is undecided as to which specialty to pursue, he is sure he plans to be active in student organizations that have a focus on health disparities, including the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and the First-year Urban Neighborhood Campaign (FUNC). He also plans to conduct scholarly research regarding health disparities. Devon’s academic interests include health disparities, health policy, surgery, health promotions, and chronic disease prevention.
Devon lives in Boston with his long-term girlfriend Adrienne and his step-son Remy. He has a five-year old son from a previous relationship, Evan Taylor, who lives in West Virginia. Devon loves spending time with his family and exposing his children to things he wasn’t able to see and experience as a child. He also loves sports, political debates, reading about virtually anything, and visiting museums.