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C.J. Cole

Former Sooner Enters CU Med School

August 2018 — Working as a scribe in the emergency department at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, C.J. Cole saw doctor-patient interactions that changed the way he viewed medicine.

He witnessed patients in crisis and watched physicians grow frustrated with the job. But he also saw interactions that impressed him and helped him grow.

“It was incredible to me how a few of the doctors could maintain such a good bedside manner. They listened to people, comforted them and told them what they needed to hear - and what they are supposed to hear.”

Cole knew when he entered college that medicine was a possible career path.

But first, there was basketball. A player since the age of 5, he was a walk-on to the University of Oklahoma team and played four years after a redshirt year.

The team’s athletic trainer was often around, taping ankles and prescribing exercise and stretching for injuries. Cole tried to be nearby when the trainer was treating a player – sometimes coming into practice early – because he found it interesting.

“What really made an impression was that someone can have such an effect on peoples’ lives. It was such a simple thing but he gave us peace of mind. He made us feel that although we might be hurting now, it’s something that can be fixed.”

Cole graduated with a chemical biosciences degree and was named to the 2017 Academic All-Big 12 Team and received the NCAA Elite 90 Award for having the top grade-point average among Final Four participants.

He applied to medical schools, but learned he needed to work on his interview skills and gain experience in medicine.

“That was a tough portion of my life. I’m not someone who is used to rejection like that, and it really taught me a lot about how to be a better person. I decided I needed to improve my application and spend some time figuring out why I wanted to be a doctor.”

C.J. Cole and his wife Kristen.

He began by shadowing physicians, who recommended working as a medical scribe to gain experience. He knew about team-building from playing sports, but working as a scribe taught him new skills.

“There were some pretty big injuries and a lot of stuff that I was not expecting to see at first. One patient had a seizure and that was a little traumatic. I’d never seen anything like that before and it was eye-opening.

“My job was to write down what happened to the best of my ability. It was hard in a situation like that because the patient can’t give a history. So I wrote down what I observed. When there was time I would ask the attending what was most important for the notes because my job was to complete the report with as much detail as possible.”

Watching doctor-patient interaction, he learned more than the science of medicine. He appreciated the interpersonal skills that make a good doctor.

Cole, 25, is not sure which specialty will interest him at University of Colorado School of Medicine, but he learned while working in emergency medicine that he would prefer to develop a long-term relationship with patients.

“And a long-term in relationship in the emergency room is never a good thing,” he said. “But I do like some aspects of emergency medicine. You get to see different things every day and I don’t think you would ever get bored.”