Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Moving in the Right Direction

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Moving in the Right Direction

Article excerpt

Growing up as the youngest in a family with three brothers, Cortlan Wickliff is using his youthful advantage to make history in African-American academia.

At age 19, he became the youngest African-American to graduate from Rice University with a degree in bioengineering. This past May, at the age of 22, Wickliff became the second youngest African-American graduate from Harvard Law School.

Wickliff's drive for academic success was inspired in elementary school when he completed a project on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through which, he learned about the civil rights leader graduating with his Ph.D. at the age of 26.

"I can be a little competitive, and it seemed to me that if you're going to compete and be successful, then compete against the most successful person you can find, and for me that was Dr. King," Wicklift says.

Wickliff initially dreamed of becoming a doctor, but after a weeklong hospital stint when he was 7 years old, he decided to pursue engineering in the medical arena.

"Something that I noticed was that every time a doctor would come into the room, they were looking at these machines, and they were using these machines," Wickliff recalls. "And so the thing that I decided I wanted to do was build the machines that helped doctors save lives--since I did not have the desire to be around blood and gore."

So the aspiring scientist chose to follow an entrepreneurial route and started his own medical device company.

But three years after Wickcliff charted a course toward his professional dreams, he had another life-altering encounter with the medical field. His father suffered a heart attack. The nearest hospital was at least 30 miles away from the family's home in Liberty, Texas, and his father did not survive the attack.

From his father's death, Wickliff realized there are individuals living in rural areas across the globe that lack immediate access to medical services, particularly in life-or-death situations. He decided that his medical device company would serve these people, providing portable mechanisms to doctors that would allow them to travel and save lives.

During his undergraduate years at Rice, Wickliff had several opportunities to learn techniques within the STEM field that he hopes to use to manufacture tools under his own medical device company one day. …

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