Chris Tipton took the scenic route to a football scholarship at the University of Missouri. He was overlooked as an offensive lineman at Bowling Green High School, tucked away in the northeast part of the state, and began his college career at tiny Culver-Stockton before transferring to MU in 2004.
A decade after his playing days, Tipton followed a winding path back to MU, this time as a student in the School of Medicine.
“That’s kind of been my M.O.,” said Tipton, a 32-year-old first-year medical student. “I’m from rural America. In football, it was harder to get seen. I had to work my way up to Mizzou. I did walk on, but I was fortunate enough to earn a scholarship soon after I walked on. I had to work for that.
“I had to work my way up through being a paramedic, work my way toward medicine. I didn’t get to be the 22-year-old kid going to med school, like normal. But I think it’s going to make me a better physician in the long run.”
Tipton first applied to medical school in 2015 but wasn’t accepted. He credited the Mizzou MedPrep program as a difference-maker in his successful application last year. He improved his MCAT score by 12 points and learned what admissions coordinators valued in an applicant.
“That MedPrep program was monumental in helping me,” he said. “I was in the working world, so it was nice to have some guidance in the whole application process.”
The program is in its seventh year at MU. MedPrep is divided into workshops that target people at different stages on the path to medical school. The first workshop, Medical Explorations, is for high school students considering the idea of medical and health care careers. MedPrep I and II are for college juniors and seniors and nontraditional students, and the focus is on helping the students present themselves effectively in the application process. The most advanced workshop, MedPrep III, is for newly admitted MU School of Medicine students preparing to tackle biochemistry, cell physiology, pharmacology and anatomy in their M1 year. It also includes a diversity and inclusion primer.
MedPrep is open to all, with a special focus on value-added groups. That category includes underrepresented-in-medicine students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, students from rural areas and nontraditional students, such as Tipton, who are taking a circuitous route to medical school.
After graduating from MU with a degree in general agriculture, Tipton wanted to be a firefighter. To that end, he got certified as an emergency medical technician and paramedic. That sparked an interest in medicine, which grew as he worked as a flight paramedic in Hannibal and a paramedic in St. Louis. He earned a master’s degree in biochemistry and biotechnology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he researched treatments for sepsis.
“I developed carbohydrate molecules to block inflammatory cascades — nerdy stuff,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tipton and his wife, Jordyn, were raising a family, which includes two young sons — Kye and Xander — with another child due in March 2018. That’s a busy enough life without adding med school to the mix, but Tipton was determined, even after the first rejection.
“It’s never too late,” MedPrep program director Andrea Simmons said. “Even with a family, you can still go back and be in school and still reach your dreams. And even if you apply and don’t get in, don’t be discouraged and apply again. MedPrep may help enhance some of the things that might have been missing from that first application.”
Over Labor Day weekend, the Missouri athletic department held a reunion for the 2007 football team. Tipton was a backup offensive lineman on that team, which went 12-2 and is remembered as one of the best in school history. The reunion was a chance to reconnect with old buddies and relive the glory days.
Tipton didn’t go.
“Honestly, I studied,” said Tipton, who spent the weekend engrossed in histology and hematopoiesis. “I was really torn, but I just decided that this is my focus right now.”