Purple Heart recipients, Navy SEAL among Quillen College of Medicine’s Class of 2027

Published 4:36 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2023

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JOHNSON CITY – When U.S. Army veteran Jason Ramos began looking into medical schools, he was struck by East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine’s high percentage of military-affiliated students.

“When I applied to and interviewed at Quillen, it became my No. 1 choice,” said Ramos, one of two Purple Heart recipients who are members of Quillen’s Class of 2027. “I did not know a lot about Quillen before I applied but I started researching the school and it quickly moved itself into my No. 1 choice.

“It became the only medical school I wanted to go to,” Ramos continued.

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Ramos is one of five veterans who are among the 78 members of the Class of 2027.

“Quillen is proud, and honored, to have one of the highest percentages of military-affiliated students among all medical schools nationwide,” said Dr. Bill Block, dean of the Quillen College of Medicine. “Being a Military Friendly© school isn’t just a tagline for us, it’s been embedded in the very fiber of our institution since our founding in 1974 on the campus of the Mountain Home VA.”

The university has an established history of helping veterans and has secured the respected Military Friendly© designation for more than a decade.

Ramos spent more than a decade in the Army as a member of an airborne infantry unit but was drawn to medicine after serving multiple combat deployments in Afghanistan, including the deployment he was wounded.

“What I want to continue to do is help people in a more direct way,” said Ramos.

Ramos said he and his fellow veterans have already forged a bond thanks to a get-together organized by former U.S. Navy SEAL P.J. Pelaez, another incoming member of the new class.

Pelaez, who served as a medic for a time during his service, had just a two-week break between the end of his military service and starting medical school. Pelaez zeroed in on Quillen as a top choice due to its emphasis on serving rural and underserved communities.

“I grew up in a similar rural community and spent a lot of time in the military treating people from underserved communities, and it just absolutely pulled at my heartstrings,” said Pelaez. “It all just really lined up in a pretty serendipitous way that choosing Quillen and Johnson City was a no-brainer for my wife and me.”

Pelaez said his passion for providing care stems from helping others during his time in the military.

“It’s something you want to keep doing; you want to keep providing for people,” Pelaez said. “There’s something addicting about wanting to give people another chance and provide care for them.”

On Friday, Pelaez and Ramos will join the other 76 members of the Class of 2027 as they receive their white coats, one of the first major milestones in their journey toward becoming doctors.

“The white coat shows that you are where you’re supposed to be,” Ramos said. “You have answered your calling, and you are laying the first brick in the road and following this path. We all heard this call, and we all answered. It is a monumental accomplishment.”