Kevin McCowan was UNC Hospitals' first African-American male general surgery resident. But that's something he rarely thinks about. McCowan says his primary concern is his patients' welfare.
The oldest of three boys, McCowan grew up in Anderson, S.C. At the age of 13, he made the decision to become a doctor and has stuck with his passion ever since.
Although McCowan was offered a full scholarship during his senior year to play football at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., he decided to go to Morehouse College, a historically black institution in Atlanta, Ga.
"I'll never forget the first semester," he recalled. "I had the most difficult chemistry professor there, with class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m. I sat down front, only missed one lecture and made an F. I was destroyed!"
But McCowan toughed it out and graduated from Morehouse in 1986 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He didn't feel like he was prepared for medical school, so McCowan headed for graduate school at the UNC School of Public Health.
While taking a semester off, McCowan worked as a medical technologist at Duke University Medical Center, where he gained valuable educational experiences.
In 1987, McCowan was accepted into the Medical Education Development (MED) Program at UNC and finished the program in the top three. In the spring of 1988, McCowan was accepted into a dual degree curriculum, UNC's Medicine-Public Health Program.
McCowan has had the opportunity to travel to Europe for surgical research and several third-year clerkships. He completed a clerkship in trauma and neurosurgery at Harlem Hospital in New York, a year of transplantation immunological research in the UNC Department of Surgery, and a year as president of the UNC Chapter of the Student National Medical Association and the John B. Graham Student Research Society.
McCowan graduated from UNC General Surgery Residency Program in 1999 and now works at a private practice in Georgia. He has come a long way and has paved the road for other students to follow in his footsteps.
McCowan considers it a personal responsibility to be a role model for minority kids and hopes to show them that they can achieve everything he has and more.