#MySugarbush January Winner: From Sugarbush Ski Patroller to MD/PhD
Alright y’all, it’s time to announce the winner of our #MySugarbush contest for the month of January! #MySugarbush is all about storytelling & letting you, our Sugarbush community, tell us why this mountain is special in your life. We thought this story from David T. about his daughter’s journey as a Sugarbush Ski Patroller, and how it led her to change her major & pursue a PhD, is a perfect example of how this mountain community can have a positive impact on a person’s life. Read on to hear Sammi’s story!
David and Sammi’s Story
Words by David T.
“Lori, Sammi, our daughter, and I moved to Vermont in 1997 and began skiing at Sugarbush in 1998, when Sammi was four. In the spring of 2016, when Sammi was a college junior and home for spring break, she did what virtually every college junior on break does more than anything else: sleep. So, Lori and I were surprised when, on her last Sunday morning at home, Sammi walked into our Snow Creek condo dining area shortly before 8AM. I looked at Sammi and somewhat incredulously asked, “why are you up?” “I’m going to try out for ski patrol.” And with that, she was out the door. Little did we know it, but Sammi always admired Sugarbush’s patrollers, and she secretly harbored a desire to, one day, become one herself.
As it turned out, the ski patrol tryout consisted of two laps on Stein’s, which on that particular day was a sheet of ice. I guess they figured if you could twice survive Stein’s under those conditions, you were “good.” After an hour or two, Sammi returned and said that she was all set—she “just” had to now get her Wilderness First Responder certification, which she planned to do over the summer.
After the end of her junior year, Sammi came home briefly and then headed back to New York City to serve an on-campus internship as she had done in previous summers. She settled into her summer program and then looked for a WFR course. She was quickly disappointed, however, as there were no WFR courses available in New York City. Not to be deterred, Sammi found that she could get her EMT certification, and Colin, the head of Sugarbush’s ski patrol, confirmed that EMT certification was even better if Sammi was willing to do that. Sammi wasn’t particularly enamored of the intensity of EMT training in addition to the demands of her internship, but she told us that she was going to do it because she really wanted to be on the patrol.
Sammi dove in, and quickly realized that this was a much bigger undertaking than she had planned for. But she forged on. She also worked hard on her internship in a biology lab. From an academic standpoint, Sammi was a neuroscience major, and her long-term plan was to go on to graduate school to pursue a PhD and ultimately become a research scientist.
Later that summer, Lori and I were enjoying dinner in our Snow Creek condo on a beautiful Saturday evening when our phone rang. It was Sammi, who had just left the emergency department of a New York City hospital after having spent a day working there as part of her EMT training. “I think I want to go to medical school.”
In September, at the beginning of her senior year, Sammi met with her advisor to figure out how to fit in the classes she would need to satisfy her pre-med requirements. He said, “Do you really want to spend your senior year taking lower-level classes?” “Yup!”
Sammi spent many days on the Sugarbush patrol that winter and the following spring. She did morning and evening sweeps, hauled a 250 lb. patroller down Paradise in a sled to train for that eventuality (I saw the resultant black and blue marks), climbed lift towers on frigid evenings in the spray of a snow gun, and tended to the medical needs of injured skiers. And she greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of the wonderful team called The Sugarbush Ski Patrol.
Sammi graduated later that spring and began a job working as a researcher in a lab at the Columbia University Medical Center. She also began the arduous process of studying for the MCAT and applying to medical schools. She decided that she wanted to have her cake and eat it too: she wanted to be both a doctor and a scientist, so she applied to MD/PhD programs at many prominent medical schools.
In August of 2018, in a Tufts Medical School auditorium, as one of four incoming MD/PhD students, Sammi donned her white coat and recited the Hippocratic Oath. She is now in her fifth year of eight, presently working on her PhD in a lab that aims to find a cure for epilepsy. In another year and a half, she’ll begin the final two years of her medical studies.
So, in an unexpected way, Sugarbush enriched Sammi’s life by exposing her to things that she wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. And I’m quite certain that after she finishes the long road of her medical training, she’ll ultimately return to patrolling at our favorite hill. For us, skiing at Sugarbush has meant much more than enjoying the mountain’s beautiful trails. Our family is grateful for these experiences and opportunities.”
Sharing the story of his daughter’s journey won David a $100 Sugarbush gift card and brand-new GoPro! Check out our contest page to see how you can become a winner too.