Hilton Head Preparatory School senior John Gulbin has an unusual requirement when it comes to picking a college: He wants to continue working as an emergency medical technician while on campus.
The 17-year-old became an EMT as a high school sophomore in Darien, Conn., where his school had a program that trained students to answer 911 calls and perform emergency medical procedures. Students carried pagers and were allowed to dash out of class if an emergency call came in.
Gulbin saw the program as the perfect step on his path to becoming a doctor -- something he's been planning since he was a fifth-grader. He put in extra hours on the EMT program, pored over textbooks -- especially chapters on cardiology, his biggest interest -- and did everything he could to ensure he was ready for his first call, according to his mom, Darcy.
His first call was anything but easy. A car accident had left a man badly injured. Gulbin climbed into the car through the rear window, wriggled his way to the front seat and began performing CPR. When the patient's heart stopped, Gulbin used a defibrillator to try to revive him. The procedure didn't work and the man died.
Despite that tough first experience, Gulbin never lost his passion for medicine. He spoke about his experience during his senior speech at Prep, a tradition in which seniors speak on any topic that interests them.
Medicine, he told his classmates, is his calling.
"I have successfully saved hundreds of lives, but with success, comes failure," he said in the speech. "That is medicine."
Since moving to Bluffton after his junior year of high school, Gulbin has continued to pursue his passion. He's interned at Dr. Jeff Schyberg's private practice in Savannah -- an experience his mom, a nurse, thought might make John at least momentarily reconsider his career choice.
"I really thought, 'This is the most boring part, doing office visits,' " she said. "I thought he would not enjoy it at all. But he loved it."
Schyberg said Gulbin has been a great help -- observing patient examinations, researching difficult cases, and answering phones, among other chores. Schyberg has no doubt Gulbin will become a doctor.
"I can't think of him doing anything else," he said.
Gulbin anticipates working as an EMT again in a few months. He'll turn 18 in February, the minimum age to be an EMT in South Carolina. He simply has some weekend refresher courses before he'll be back in an ambulance helping people.
Because he hopes to continue the work as a college student, he's considering Tulane University, The University of the South, Furman University and Clemson University, all of which have campus EMT programs.
"Everywhere I applied, that's what I was most worried about," he said.
He remains committed to becoming a doctor, too.
"(Being an EMT) showed me I can do it," he said. "I'm not going in blind."