John Cahir will graduate in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Class of 2022 on May 6, but medical school was not always part of his life’s plan. As an undergrad studying biology in Arizona, Cahir was following a Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) path towards a career as a commissioned officer in the United States Army. While deployed to a war zone in service to his country, however, Cahir encountered a greater calling. 

“I just assumed I’d be jumping out of airplanes for twenty years as my Dad did,” Cahir recalled. ”I was lucky enough to have a career before I came to medicine, but you’ve got to find what makes you happy every day. I have found that medicine gives me purpose.”

When thinking about his future now, Cahir feels excited. “I love going to the hospital every day; not every day is the best day, but being able to impact people's lives and make a difference in the world.” 

While in Afghanistan, the first-hand example set by the battalion surgeon – a pediatric pulmonologist who was deployed  from a hospital in Hawaii to a remote southern Afghanistan region with an infantry battalion –  was really inspiring for Cahir to see. He remembers the battalion surgeon saying, “I understand we are in a war zone, but whoever comes through the door is a patient, and I’m going to do everything I can to save their lives.” 

This example led Cahir to consider what initially drove him to the military, the calling to give back to the community, and how medicine might just provide the answer. 

With encouragement from his wife and past war zone experience, Cahir enrolled in the University of Minnesota Medical School dead-set on becoming an emergency medicine physician. Having witnessed firsthand the frontline intensity, array of pathology, acuity and trauma, it was this specialty he felt was his calling. 

While on rotation in Hennepin County Medical Center’s trauma unit, Cahir’s advisors noticed his propensity to care for patients beyond the Emergency Department and into the intensive care unit. This realization presented alternative possibilities and new interest in anesthesiology. It became clear that continuity of care from presentation to recovery interested Cahir to look into alternative specialties and what it would take to get there.

While reflecting on his time at the U of M Medical School, Cahir says proudly: “The thing that the U of M does potentially better than any other medical school in the country is that they care about making great doctors,” noting, “Dr. Bob Englander, Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education, is incredible.” 

Known to appear before career-defining exams to remind students that a single test score doesn't define your ability to be a physician, Dr. Englander often says“It’s not how you score on individual tests. It’s all about how you deal with patients, and we want to teach you to be great providers.“

Cahir saw firsthand the impact a quality clinician can have while deployed as an officer in the Army. “If you truly want to make an impact in this world, the best way to do that is to be a healthcare provider.” 

“I truly love the U of M,” Cahir shares.“I think the Medical School prepares us to be great residents and great doctors. They make decisions based on what is best for the medical students to become the best doctors they can be.”

Following Commencement on Friday, Cahir will continue his training as a resident in anesthesiology at the University of Minnesota.

Congratulations, Dr. Cahir and all members of the Class of 2022.