Like any medical student, Taurean Baynard has logged an incalculable number of hours in the classroom. Perhaps less common is the number of those hours Baynard spent in elementary school classrooms.
Baynard, a fourth-year medical student, was leaning toward a career in medicine when he entered Northwestern University as a freshman in 2007. Intellectually curious with a range of interests as broad as his ever-present grin, he resisted taking a conventional path to medical school. Following a freshman year of exploration in general studies, he chose to major in communication sciences and disorders, a broad course of study in the biology of communication that includes neurobiology, normal and abnormal development, audiology, anatomy, and other fields. Part of Baynard’s major was in special education, and his degree led him into Minneapolis and Chicago elementary school classrooms as a special education assistant for four years before he headed to med school.
“Working in special ed helped move me along the path toward medicine,” Baynard says. “Health issues were a big problem for a lot of these kids. A big part of school at that age is just being able to interact socially with your peers, so when they’re not healthy and miss school, they really miss out. I was always interested in helping them medically and caring for their health.”
Making the right choice
The four years he devoted to working with special needs students had another benefit: at age 26, he entered medical school with peace of mind and confidence in his chosen path. “I think it was good to have some time away from school, to decompress and not be in a school setting. By the time I got into med school, I knew 100 percent that medicine was what I wanted to do,” Baynard says.
The 30-year-old Minneapolis native is looking forward to a career in orthopaedic surgery. He speaks with equal verve about the promise the field holds in helping patients achieve the highest possible quality of life as well as its demanding technical aspects: the precision and skill required to repair a joint or bone and the broad range of knowledge required for mastery. He relishes the prospect of working with many different areas of the body.
“Because they deal with joints and limbs, there’s a stereotype of orthopaedic surgeons being jocks who just bang stuff back into place. But a lot of science goes into what they do that contradicts the stereotypes,” he says.
Keeping it all in perspective
As Baynard finishes the final months of medical school and anticipates residency, his family helps him keep things in perspective. He and his wife, Erin, a former teacher, are parents to a 9-month-old son, Bryson.
“Bryson keeps us pretty busy,” Baynard says. “Having a child makes it very easy to not constantly think about medicine or med school.” He also spends time with his parents, who still live in the south Minneapolis house where they raised Taurean and his three brothers.
Baynard is a recipient of many scholarships, including support from the Dean’s Scholars Fund, the Harris Family Endowed Scholarship, and others.
“Receiving scholarships has been a huge help in my life and in medical school,” Baynard says. “Obviously, medical school and undergrad are very expensive, so you come out with a lot of debt, which can be hard to dig yourself out of. Being fortunate to receive a scholarship relieves a lot of stress, especially now with a son. And to receive a scholarship where somebody has selected you because they saw something they wanted to reward you for, that’s a good feeling.”