Launched in 2008, the Tillman Scholar Program supports active duty service members, veterans and their spouses with academic scholarships, a national network and professional development opportunities.
Welch, who is Quillen College of Medicine’s third Tillman Scholar, was one of just 60 individuals chosen from among thousands of applicants nationwide. Scholars are selected for modeling service, scholarship, humble leadership and impact – traits exemplified by Pat Tillman, an athlete, scholar, soldier and leader who served in the U.S. Army and was killed in 2004 in Afghanistan.
Tillman’s family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation to carry forward his legacy by giving military veterans and spouses the educational tools and support to reach their fullest potential as leaders.
Welch is a student in Quillen College of Medicine’s Rural Primary Care Track, a community-based experiential curriculum that prepares its graduates to practice in underserved, rural communities.
“I want to set the example for my patients, inspire them to take ownership of their health and improve the health of the Appalachian region one patient at a time,” Welch said.
Following in the footsteps of his father’s 28 years of service as a submarine officer in the Navy and grandfather’s 24 years as a pilot in the Air Force, Welch began his career in the Marine Corps in 2004 where he trained as a rifleman and scout sniper, and later became a logistics officer.
A decade later, he found himself fighting a different kind of battle after returning from his third deployment to learn that his wife was trapped in an opioid addiction that arose from numerous back surgeries.
After a painful and frustrating experience attempting to navigate the health care system with her, he decided to return to school and dedicate his time to helping people through their mental health struggles.
Welch plans to complete a residency in psychiatry. During his volunteer experiences with the “no veteran dies alone” program at Mountain Home VA Healthcare System, he has developed a strong desire to pursue further training in palliative care.
Welch plans to continue serving in the Appalachian region and hopes to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health conditions (not just addictions), as well as help educate patients on how to maximize their health and die with dignity.