When Jim Do says his career choices boiled down to medical school or cage fighting, it helps to look at the opening line of his personal statement for medical school:
“As a kid I wanted to be a superhero.”
The middle child of Vietnamese immigrants, Do grew up knowing some people needed rescuing. And, with a bathroom towel wrapped around his neck, he knew he was just the guy to do it, if only he could harness some superpowers of his own.
“Saving someone in need has always been in the back of my mind,” he says. “But I really wanted to do more extreme things and have a special power like flying around. “
Barring that option, Do found ways to help people at ground level.
When you ask him about his summer leading up to matriculation, he enthusiastically describes a list of volunteer activities including mentoring students to take the MCAT.
“We’ve seen great increases,” he says. “We have one student who scored in the low 20s at first, and in the course of a month and a half, he’s now got a 33 high score.”
At Skinner Middle School in Denver he’s teaching students about health careers.
“The students who go through the camp get an average GPA of 3.5 the following year and have nearly perfect attendance.”
He did the same with sixth- and ninth-graders at Denver’s Green Valley Ranch School of Science and Technology.
“At the end we throw a barbeque and tell them ‘We hope to see you in the future so study hard.’”
Through Adams County Connections, Do mentored a seventh-grader who, when they first met, “seemed happy about receiving a report card full of failing grades.” After many years together, “Joe is on the path towards graduation.”
He says his most rewarding volunteer experience was with Children’s Hospital Colorado, where he spent Saturday nights during his undergrad years with young patients.
“We’d play X Box or we’d make origami - whatever was available,” he says.
So how does this seemingly mild-mannered guy explain cage fighting?
He became interested after he graduated from CU Boulder in 2010. During his year off to study for the MCAT, he started training in Brazilian Jujitsu “in case the whole med school thing didn’t work out.”
His older brother was already involved in the sport, and “I was not in school, so I thought why not?
“It’s kind of like a job. I lived in the gym when I started out. You need strong discipline and there’s a lot of training.”
Fortunately the “whole med school thing” did work out, and he’ll continue jujitsu on the side.
“I imagine myself mentoring young doctors, building relationships with patients, and eliminating disease to save others,” Do, 25, says in his personal statement. “My passion is to trade my cape in for a stethoscope and seek out disease.”