Tears flowed as Melissa Smith ’14 received her new epaulets marking her military promotion to Army captain. She had just earned her UCF doctor of medicine degree. This moment was even more special because her husband, Arron Smith ’15, a fellow medical student and Army veteran, did the ceremonial pinning — with the spouses both in full dress Army uniform.
“[While pinning me, my husband] told me that I was his inspiration and that I was his hero. And he was honored to serve next to such a great doctor,” she says.
“It’s been such an honor that we’ve been able to go to school together and serve our country together,” she says. “To have him pin me up there, I was very overwhelmed with emotion and very happy.”
Melissa Smith will do her residency training in urology at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington. Her husband is set to graduate in 2019 and hopes to follow her there to become an orthopedic surgeon. Melissa was one of three military officers who graduated May 18 and were promoted to captain after collecting their M.D.s. The officers are recipients of the military’s Health Professions Scholarship, which covers tuition and living expenses for medical students who agree to serve their country for one year for each year of scholarship. While military officers are traditionally pinned during commencement by a faculty member, Melissa asked medical school leaders to allow her husband to do the pinning. They agreed.
“I really wanted Arron to pin me because we have been through so much personally and in the military and we’ve been by each other’s side at each step of our military career and I couldn’t think of anyone I would rather share that moment with,” she says. Melissa says Arron promised to tell her jokes during the pinning so she wouldn’t cry. But he didn’t. “He told me that I was his inspiration and that I was his hero. And he was honored to serve next to such a great doctor,” she says.
From Army Training to Medical School
The Smiths met in 2005 while they went through combat medic school and nursing training in the U.S. Army. They married in 2008. Three days after the wedding, they were deployed to Iraq for a year.
“We have always been to participate in each step of each other’s military career, and I don’t want to stop now,” Melissa says.
After returning from deployment, both worked as nurses and then attended UCF to get their bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
“After I finished my first semester, I just realized that I wanted to do more,” Melissa says. “After being a nurse for so long, I wanted to be able to make health care decisions for my patients instead of just following instructions.”
Before she died, Melissa’s mother told her, “never settle.” So the couple began researching medical school admission requirements and realized they had met most of them. “So I told him if I was going to go, he was going to go too,” Melissa says.
Arron had more courses to complete and joined Melissa at the College of Medicine a year later.
“It really helped having a spouse who has true and unique understanding of the stresses of medical school and why you need to study 14 hours a day,” Arron says.
The Smiths are looking forward to serving in the medical corps together as Army physicians. “There’s no honor greater than caring for my brothers and sisters,” Melissa says.
“Our military paths have really shadowed each other for the last 10 or 12 years and each step of the way we’ve hit several milestones together,” Melissa says. “We were deployed together. We moved through the ranks together. When we recommissioned, I was able to swear him in, so we have always been to participate in each step of each other’s military career and I don’t want to stop now.”