Every year, Kosciusko REMC gives away 10 $1,000 John H. Anglin scholarships to members who are pursuing higher education. This article is part of a series highlighting some of the John H. Anglin Scholarship recipients.
Mason Johnson is a young man, but it became apparent early on in our interview that he is also a wise man with a big heart and an immensely bright future. After we introduced ourselves, Johnson told me that he graduated from Indiana University Bloomington in 2022 with his bachelor’s degree in human biology. He took a premedical track. “Then,” Johnson said, “this year I got into medical school at Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine. I start this fall.”
Johnson shared that he’d “like to do surgery,” adding, “I’ve shadowed a lot of physicians in surgery, and I really enjoyed it. I like cardiothoracics, which is basically heart surgery.” He then revealed that he is also interested in oncology and ultimately will choose his specific path a little further down the line.
Johnson was born at Kosciusko Community Hospital and lived in Claypool prior to heading to college. He didn’t always know he would end up in medicine.
“In high school, I thought I was going to follow in my dad’s footsteps and be an engineer,” he said. “I got into high school, took my first engineering class, and knew it wasn’t for me. I started looking at different things.”
He recounted that a careers class revealed to him that he should investigate medicine. The next year he took a biomedical engineering class and enjoyed learning anatomy and physiology. “I took some more related classes and determined I wanted to be a physician,” Johnson said. He credits Warsaw Community High School teacher Rose Love with being influential in his path to medicine.
Our interview revealed another significant occurrence in Johnson’s life that influenced his decision to become a doctor. “Between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, my grandma and grandpa’s pastor got melanoma, which then metastasized,” Johnson began. “His wife wanted to take care of him and keep him home as long as she could. She reached out to me and asked if I could help.” Johnson shared that once a week he would spend the night and take care of the pastor so his wife could relax, shower and sleep in her bed. “That was an interesting experience for me because I got to see that side of things. I got to see someone who was struggling, but also, you’re helping take care of them. You’re helping their family, lifting them up and helping them do what they couldn’t do themselves. It gave me a lot of purpose,” Johnson reflected.
Getting admitted to medical school is no easy task. When asked about the obstacles he overcame in his educational journey, Johnson is forthright and shares that he did not get accepted into medical school when he first applied.
“I applied last year and planned to go right into med school after my bachelor’s, but I didn’t get in anywhere. I had to focus on going back and trying hard to change my MCAT score. Once I was able to change that, I reapplied.” Johnson said he expanded his reach and applied to more schools than he did the first time around. His efforts paid off and he was admitted.
Johnson revealed that he took the Medical College Admission Test a mere week after graduating with his bachelor’s degree. “Horrible mistake. I should have given myself more time to study and prepare. I took it and didn’t do very well,” he admitted. Johnson said he then enrolled in a program through Princeton University that helped him get MCAT-ready. “It was a two-month program where non-stop, seven days a week, I was studying and taking exams. That program helped me to get a better score so I could get into medical school.”
Of course, that was not the only challenge he encountered during his academic career. Johnson was a sophomore at IU Bloomington when the COVID-19 pandemic made the world stand still. Johnson was pensive and not without emotion when he remembered that significant time in his life.
“I felt like I got shortchanged on a couple of classes — psych and sociology — which was one reason why I didn’t do well on some sections of my MCAT the first time. During that time, it was rough because I was stuck in my apartment constantly. Everything shut down in Bloomington for over a year. All the food places closed up. We were left with fast food, which doesn’t help physical or mental health,” Johnson reasoned.
He remembered his biochemistry professor, Rachel Horness, going out of her way to help him and other students cope with the pandemic. “During that time, she was very concerned for her students and her instructors. She realized everyone’s mental health went into the tank when COVID-19 happened and everything shut down. It was a rough time. She gave me a little more hope.”
If anything, Johnson said, the pandemic helped him appreciate traditional education. “It made me appreciate in-person classes so much. You really are engaged. You understand better because you’re there and can ask questions.”
For the last year, Johnson has been working at IU Health Bloomington as a patient-care assistant. When he is not working, he enjoys going outdoors, kayaking, driving his four-wheeler and “tearing up Grandpa’s fields.”
“There’s a good story with that,” Johnson began. “When I was thirteen, I was driving four-wheelers with my cousin. I decided to go really fast over a jump. I buried the front end of the four-wheeler, and I went flying off and hit my head. Thank God I wore a helmet that day! I had to spend the night in the hospital. I had a concussion.” Johnson said there was a dent on the top of his helmet where his head hit the rock.
The irony of this near-tragic incident juxtaposed with Johnson’s chosen path is undeniable.
When asked about receiving the John H. Anglin Scholarship and what it means to him, Johnson said, “Every single cent means so much! Especially to someone like me. I’m looking at crazy tuition costs for medical school. It means so much coming from my own community as well because that makes me feel special that they’re helping me push into my next step. Please thank everybody for that.”