THE BORN LEADER
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ERASMO ESPINO | Student | Eagle Pass, Texas
Undergrad: Campbell University ('12)
BY BILLY LIGGETT, PHOTO BY BRYAN REAGAN
It was a question that needed to be asked during his interview process to get into Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine ... but considering Erasmo Espino’s background, both he and interview conductor felt a little silly when it was asked.
Tell us about a time in your life when you had to display leadership.
Where do we begin?
A native of Eagle Pass, Texas, located near the Mexican border about two hours west of San Antonio, Espino joined the Army soon after high school at the age of 18 in 2000. Not long into his service, the country was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001; and Espino would serve his country as a special forces medic on the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would experience multiple intense moments during his deployments, treating soldiers injured in battle … some of them would not survive their injuries.
There were positive moments as well. One of Espino’s commanding officers was a doctor of osteopathic medicine, and on more than one occasion, they served the Afghan population by treating the sick and providing basic modern health care to regions that had never seen it.
So, back to the “leadership” question …
“My whole experience in the military was about [leadership],” says Espino, now 31. “But I’m not one to dwell on the past. I’m excited about my future. I’m excited to be part of something new.”
Espino, who began taking undergraduate courses at Campbell’s Fort Bragg campus while stationed there, left active duty in 2010 to focus more on his education and earn his degree in health sciences in December 2012.
Having had exposure to rural medicine in underserved areas of the world, Espino says applying for admission into Campbell’s med school seemed like a natural step.
“My family is in Fayetteville, my wife works here and my children [ages 6 and 4] were born here … this school just seemed like the right fit,” he says. “A lot of my decisions in life have come from instinct, and I have no doubt this was the right decision for me.”
Espino applied late to be a part of the first class and was initially put on a waiting list. Soon after being told this, however, a spot opened up, and Espino was chosen over hundreds of others also on the list at the time. He says simply being chosen was an honor for him.
“Being a part of the first class, that’s something special,” he says. “This class needs to set the example for future classes. It’s our responsibility to carry on the tradition of prestige in Campbell’s graduate programs. The fact that they chose us to be a part of this shows that they believe in us. And that means a lot.”
Espino has options when he finishes med school. He can choose to go back into active duty and finish his military career with an early retirement — and then open a civilian practice. Or he can choose to go straight to civilian life and practice medicine in North Carolina.
“I can see myself 10 years from now practicing emergency medicine,” he says, “and contributing to reversing the shortage of physicians in this state.”
No matter what he chooses, Espino will be a trailblazer in more than one way. The son of immigrants from Mexico, he is already the first person in his family to earn an undergraduate degree. He says his parents are beyond proud of his military service and his decision to enter medical school.
“It means a lot to me that I’m able to validate their sacrifice,” Espino says. “Coming here to this country and taking a chance … they can say it was worth it.”