Class of 2020 Feature: Connor Appelman Serves Others through Medicine

Connor Appelman, a Maysville, Ky., native, knew from an early age that he wanted to attend medical school just 65 miles down U.S. 68 at the University of Kentucky. As he puts it, he has always bled blue.

“I’m very proud of my home state, and I’ve always wanted to take care of patients in Kentucky,” he said. “That was always the goal growing up, to graduate from the UK College of Medicine. It’s gone by quickly, but it’s been amazing to live out the dream.”

The desire to help others was a driving force for Connor. When he started medical school at UK, he quickly became involved with the University’s Salvation Army Clinic, a free, student-run clinic established more than 30 years ago that provides medical students the opportunity to learn more about patient care through firsthand experience treating Lexington’s underserved populations. Working at the clinic opened Connor’s eyes to all that he could accomplish through a career in health care.

“It was so gratifying to fill such an important need,” Connor said. “Learning from the volunteer physicians and residents donating their time to not only care for these patients, but also to teach us, was an inspiration.”

Connor has used his passion for helping others to make an impact outside of the U.S. as well. Having already traveled to Peru, Guatemala, and India during his undergraduate years, he recently finished the global health track with the College of Medicine, which requires completion of electives, special events, service requirements, and rotating abroad. And in January, he stayed with a host family in Argentina, traveling with a foundation and representing UK as he completed a rotation with a children’s hospital, all while taking Spanish classes and developing communication skills he can utilize when he practices medicine.

“The trip was everything I could have wanted from a month-long exchange program,” he said.

After graduating Connor wants to continue serving others beyond the routine care he will provide as a physician. He knows the education and experience he gathered at the College of Medicine will help him reach his goals as he pursues his pediatrics residency at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. He said he appreciates everyone at UK, from the fellow students who became friends to the professors, clinicians, and student affairs officers whose strong support through the process helped him feel like part of the family.

“It goes by quickly. You’re working so hard, and you’re learning and doing so much all the time,” Connor said. “Sometimes it’s hard to see the end game, when you’re in the middle of it. But looking back now, it’s important to stop and look around every once in a while.”

No matter where his medical journey takes him, he wouldn’t be surprised if someday he ends up right back where he started, in Kentucky, helping the communities that supported him through his medical education. He’ll always be part of the Big Blue Nation.

“We have a lot of health challenges, but also so many ways we can improve,” he said, “and it would be an honor to be a part of that again.”