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COSAM Senior Finds Passion for Pediatrics

Published: 04/23/2019

By: Carla Nelson

Auburn University student John Charles Nichols comes from a family of doctors. His parents, who met while studying at Auburn, are both doctors and his older sister is currently in medical school. But John Charles says he has never felt pressure to become a doctor and discovered a passion for it on his own.

Originally from Hoover, Alabama, John Charles has always been interested in science and math, so he thought pursuing a career as a doctor made sense, but it wasn’t until shadowing in the pediatric emergency department at Children’s Hospital that he knew this was the right decision.

“I shadowed from 8 until midnight and didn’t want to leave,” John Charles said. “Then I kept my parents up until 2 a.m. talking about all of the things that I’d seen and all the ways it excited me. It was a pretty typical night, there wasn’t anything crazy that happened, but just getting to see people care for patients like that, I was like ‘I want to do this.’”

John Charles will graduate from the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) with a degree in Biomedical Sciences in May. He will soon begin studying at the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Medicine and is considering studying to become a pediatrician.

“I really love working with kids and families and I feel drawn to work in a hospital setting with kids that are sick, but with more long-term patient relationships,” John Charles said. “So, if I were to guess right now, I’d say probably pediatric oncology or cardiology or something in that realm.”

His additional experience working with kids includes working the last five summers at a Muscular Dystrophy Association camp and also volunteering at Joyland Child Development Center in Auburn.

“Kids are just so much fun. Honestly, I learn so much from them and working with them,” John Charles said. “I think kids are fun because they are so impressionable – they look up to you and just value having someone around and so it’s sweet because I feel like I can really make a difference because they care that I am there. My being there shows them that I love them and that makes a difference.”

While at Auburn, John Charles also spent time working in the Student Government Association’s Freshman Forum, Camp War Eagle and helping high school kids transition to college through the Christian-based camp The Oaks Retreat. 

“I think just the transition from high school to college is such an important time in shaping who you are. It’s the first time that you’re on your own for most people, the first time you’re making decisions, the first time you have to deal with things that are challenging without your parents right there. I think that, in a lot of ways, it is so much harder than a lot of people think it’s going to be,” John Charles said. “So, it’s just really fun to be able to walk as a friend with freshmen through that experience and be someone who’s there for them and kind of help them establish a new support network here.”

In his free time, John Charles enjoys watching major league baseball. He and his father have a goal to see a baseball game in every major league stadium in the U.S. and have been to 14 so far. 

While studying in COSAM, John Charles has been awarded Outstanding Junior in Biomedical Sciences, Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence, and the SGA Award.

John Charles said the professors in COSAM is one aspect of school that has made his college career so memorable.

“You meet teachers who just care so much about what they do and what they study and what they research, but also care so much about students and training up the next generation who will carry that research on and train the younger generation as well,” he said. “Teachers like Dr. Schneller and Dr. Ellis are the people I want to be like as a future scientist. They care so much about their field, but they also care about training the people who are learning to do it to and are so patient. They literally know so much and are patient with students who know nothing about what they do every day.”

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