Originally from Atlanta, Jon Kuo worked as a SWAT operator, paramedic and police officer before applying to the University of Minnesota Medical School. He had extensive experience in emergency situations and knew that he wanted to focus on medicine long-term, but there was one particular incident that inspired him to pursue medicine.

“I was finishing my night shift as a SWAT paramedic and police officer when dispatch notified me of a house fully engulfed in flames,” said Kuo. Upon arrival, neighbors immediately told him that they could hear screaming inside, so Kuo and fellow officers rushed into the building. Explosions began and walls started collapsing around him, forcing him to crawl out of the residence.

The first fire truck arrived, and Kuo directed it to the team’s last known location of the homeowner. They brought out the woman’s limp body, and once Kuo assessed that she was not breathing, he took over her care and directed the two other officers for assistance.

Kuo jumped in the ambulance with the patient and worked to have her regain respirations. As they pulled into the hospital, a wave of joy rushed over him when he felt a carotid pulse and she started breathing on her own.

Three days later, Kuo received a phone call from the woman’s husband to personally thank him for risking his life and to tell him that, unfortunately, his wife didn’t survive. Even though Kuo was later nominated for a Medal of Honor for personal acts of valor beyond the call of duty, he felt that he should’ve been able to do more, making this moment the catalyst for him to deepen his knowledge of medicine and patient care.

“My passion is emergency medicine. My inspiration is that someday, I can leverage my tactical and medical knowledge and be a tactical physician who brings emergency medicine to places that are not traditionally or easily reached, such as austere or field trauma environments,” stated Kuo.

His work as an emergency responder put medical care into perspective for him. “Being a physician is far more than just an interest, status and sense of fulfillment; it is a lifelong learning journey to fight for your patients in their good and bad times and making life and death decisions for them,” said Kuo.

The University of Minnesota is the only medical school Kuo applied to, and after several conversations with students and faculty, he knew undoubtedly that it was where he wanted to attend. He said, “I want to raise my family in Minnesota. More importantly, I want to give back to this special place that has and will continue to provide many special memories in my life.”