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Former Marine Corps sniper earns med-school scholarship

By Allyson Bird
Office of Development and Alumni Affairs

The Medical College Admissions Test doesn’t gauge an aspiring doctor’s physical fitness, psychological stamina or ability to battle sleep deprivation, but first-year MUSC College of Medicine student Jeffrey Waltz brought all those credentials anyway.

The Summerville resident realized, while serving as sniper with the U.S. Marine Corps, that he wanted to pursue a profession in medicine after his military career ended. “I like to help people, and I like to be challenged physically and mentally,” he said recently.

Thanks to a new scholarship from the Medical Society of South Carolina, Waltz won’t be as challenged financially. As a recipient of the Roper St. Francis Physicians Scholarship, half of his education is covered for all four years of medical school.

“They just cut my student loan debt in half,” Waltz said. “The scholarship covers half of every single thing I do here.  It came out of nowhere, and it was huge.”  

College of Medicine student Jeffrey Waltz with his wife, Kristina, and their two children: Jackson (right) and Karsyn.

College of Medicine Assistant Dean for Admissions Wanda Taylor flagged Waltz’s application coming in and recommended him for one of the scholarships. She said the scholarship aims to recruit promising medical students to stay in the region after graduation.

 “They asked him why he deserved the scholarship, and Jeffrey said, ‘I can’t even imagine why you would choose me over anyone else, because the students interviewing are all so amazing,’” Taylor remembered. “He’s just so humble.”

Waltz served in the Marine Corps for eight years. His career included both military and humanitarian missions, with deployments to the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.

One of seven children, Waltz said, “There was no money for college.” He decided to join the military and aimed to number among its most elite.

He passed layers of tests just to begin sniper training, a process that only a small percentage of recruits pass. “The first question they ask you is, ‘You just found out your dad killed your mom. What do you do?’” Waltz said. “They want to make sure you hold up under pressure.”

Waltz went on to become a scout sniper team leader, but he never intended to stay in the military. He got married in 2005 and enrolled in the College of Charleston’s biology program.

Waltz worked construction full time but still finished his degree in four years, while he and his wife, Kristina, expanded their family. Their son, Jackson, is now 6, and their daughter, Karsyn, is 3.

Before applying to medical school, Waltz decided to spend a few years working to save money and to spend time with his young family. He joined two MUSC lab teams and researched lung cancer detection and clinician communication skills with terminal patients and their families.

Waltz started medical school in the fall. He remains undecided about a specialty, but his interests include otolaryngology, pediatrics and, in a nod to his high-stress prior experience, trauma surgery.