On the first day of Michael “Gus” McCarthy’s rotation at the Walter Reed Medical Center last year, he didn’t know that it was also former President Donald Trump’s first day in that hospital recovering from COVID-19.

“I didn’t know anything about this base or where to go, and so literally the president was in there – everyone was trying to scramble to figure out where to go or how they can even get me on base,” he recalled.

From a young age, McCarthy’s drive to pursue medicine has always been close to his heart. He recalls an early memory of looking out from a small crack in his bedroom door and watching a pair of medics enter his house after his brother passed away from early life complications.

“I remember seeing them and having this feeling of helplessness,” he said. “It was kind of this pursuit, this drive, of not wanting to be in that situation again and being able to help my family members in the future.”

He started his medical school education at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, where he was able to be in a community that was focused on giving him real-life experience in the medical field, while making sure that he was well-supported.

“My whole program was looking out for me basically from day one,” he said. “I loved it so much, and I knew that it was the place for me. The Duluth campus was a great fit for me, and the faculty there did a fantastic job of preparing me to be a future physician.”

McCarthy shared that although he originally wanted to go into rural family medicine, another heartbreaking loss fueled his interest in the specialty of psychiatry.

“I lost a sister to suicide about five years ago, and that’s when I figured out that I wanted to go into psychiatry,” he said. “Lots of people have been struggling with their mental health lately, and now more than ever, it feels like those people need our help. This is where I want to be practicing.”

That passion became a reality when McCarthy found out that he received an early match at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He will be specializing in psychiatry for the United States Army.

“It’s really nice to think that I can improve someone’s life and turn things around for them. I can improve their subjective experience and how they’re living with my words and just by talking to them. I like how lasting it is, too,” he said. “By just teaching people a few basic therapy skills, I can basically be with them for their entire life.”

At Walter Reed, he will continue his work in the mental health field and provide care to service members who are currently stationed at or around the hospital as well as those returning from theaters of combat.

“Looking back on it, all of the ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I definitely know that this is the calling and the place that I need to be, so I’m really happy with it. It’s the coolest specialty too,” he shared with a smile.

Gus would like to thank his parents, Bill and Kelly McCarthy, and his wife, Hannah McCarthy, for supporting him throughout his education.