Class Year: 2023
Degree program: Physician Assistant Program
Dwayne Chapman began playing football when he was just 5 years old, and over the years drew the attention of college coaches, including those at Division I Western Michigan.
But his D1 college football career came to an abrupt end in 2017 when he suddenly collapsed during a practice as a redshirt freshman. Chapman spent several weeks in the hospital, and was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle.
Six months after his diagnosis, Chapman sought a second opinion. After his prolonged period of not training for football, secondary tests showed heart shrinkage and Chapman said he was diagnosed with athlete’s heart, a condition that can cause an increase in heart chamber size and thickening of heart walls during intense training.
"I had never experienced any heart complications or health issues," he remembered. "I felt like my life was over; everything I had worked so hard for was derailed. I was devastated to learn I would never be able to play football again."
At his lowest moment, the care and empathy Chapman received from healthcare providers helped him recognize his life wasn't over. Rather, it was the beginning of a new chapter.
Chapman said one physician assistant, in particular, spent a lot of time talking to him about life experiences and praying with him. He said that connection “had a profound impact” and helped define his future.
"Through research, counsel and prayer, I realized being a physician assistant was what I wanted to do in life," he said. "When God closes one door, he always opens another door with the correct path."
Chapman explained that his choice to become a physician assistant is about being able to help others live healthier, happier lives.
As a physician assistant—with plans to specialize in orthopedics—Chapman wants to work in an underserved community. There, he hopes to establish trust through building relationships, particularly by working with children during their formative years.
"Kids may view this career as a viable option since they are receiving health care from someone who looks like them," said Chapman. "Ultimately, I feel that it is imperative as healthcare providers that we build interpersonal trust with patients, which will ultimately lead to overall healthy communities who view medical providers as an asset."
And football will always be a part of his life. After completing the physician assistant program, Chapman plans to coach football in his spare time.
"The love of the game,” Chapman said, “is real.”