Eight years ago, Steven Rooker wanted to see if he had what it took to join the U.S. Army. He never imagined that it would lead him to studying medicine.
In 2011 Rooker was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division as a platoon medic and deployed to southern Afghanistan for a seven-month tour. The terrain there was flat and covered with poppy fields, making it a high alert area for improvised explosive devices.
This was where Rooker’s life changed forever. A member of his platoon stepped on an IED, losing both of his legs in an instant. Immediately, Rooker ran into open fire to try to stop the bleeding from the femoral arteries. Rooker used his medic training to stabilize him until he was picked up by a helicopter. The soldier survived.
“It was transforming in a sense, where it was the most prideful moment in my life,” Rooker said. “I had done something I was trained for and I was there for someone in a time of need. He might have died if I wasn’t there. It was really rewarding.”
Rooker continued to treat casualties and tended to five first-responder treatments to U.S. soldiers and locals. After this experience, he had a need to help those relying on him.
Passion for medicine
Initially, the Strasburg, Colorado, native thought being a medic was just a job. Since then, it solidified his passion for medicine. “Everyone treated you differently when you were the guy that was there for everyone else,” he explained.
In 2012, Rooker received the Army Commendation Medal for his valorous achievement as a combat medic and volunteered as a treatment medic at a branch of Womack Army Hospital at Fort Bragg while remaining affiliated with his unit. In 2013, he decided to leave the Army and applied to Colorado State University to study biochemistry. During his time here, Rooker has researched in the Mycobacteria Research Lab and volunteered as an EMT.
“Steven truly represents the best of what CSU has to offer,” said Aaron Sholders, undergraduate program coordinator in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “I can personally attest to Steven’s intellectual curiosity and ability. Rarely have I seen a student so enjoy the process of learning and discovery in all his classes. He really is remarkable.”
Rooker has earned his bachelor’s degree cum laude and a generous scholarship to attend the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, to work toward his medical degree, with interests in emergency medicine and urology. Rooker hopes to one day practice medicine in Denver.