Pre-Med and the Pitch: APSU’s Hannah Wilson journeys from soccer field to medical school
By: Colby Wilson October 24, 2023
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Austin Peay State University biology major Hannah Wilson knew two things were in her future - soccer and medical school. The University provided one for her, and has given her the tools to pursue the other upon graduation.
A Knoxville native, Wilson chose to become a Gov at a difficult time: 2020, at a time when athletics was on indefinite hold due to the pandemic. She and the others in her recruiting class, across all sports, were able to develop a strong academic base in the meantime.
Wilson has put together an outstanding academic career at Austin Peay. A six-time member of the Dean’s List, Wilson achieved the highest academic honors available before Austin Peay switched from the Ohio Valley Conference to the Atlantic Sun Conference, earning the OVC Academic Medal of Honor and a spot on the Commissioner’s Honor Roll in 2021.
It's easy to believe the life of a student-athlete is a charmed one, and it has its perks—Wilson specifically mentioned Matthew Kilpatrick, Director of Student-Athlete Success, as a vital resource during her career. But it can also be unbelievably difficult, requiring a balancing act around games, practices, travel, studying and keeping up with coursework. Wilson—all student-athletes, really—also become experts in time management.
But there are also, inevitably, things student-athletes miss out on that others might take for granted. Research opportunities, internships, conferences—those were often non-starters for someone who already had plenty of demands on her time.
Fortunately, as Austin Peay has grown, it has also begun offering more opportunities closer to home as well. Wilson was grateful for the opportunity to do some organic chemistry research under the tutelage of Dr. Anuradha Pithiranage, working with soybean oil.
“I had to learn a lot about how to balance my time and my focus,” Wilson said. “I had to be mentally tough. And I think Austin Peay, being a smaller school, has allowed me to have opportunities I wouldn't have had at a bigger school. So I've really gotten to know my professors and gotten opportunities to do research with them or just get to know them on a personal level. And I think that's really set me up for success as well.”
On the pitch, she worked her way into the mix early—Wilson made six appearances as a freshman and netted a goal against Jacksonville State that season—and earned more trust from the coaching staff as her career went on. To date, she’s logged nearly 2,000 career minutes across 50 matches, including 15 starts.
With the advent of the one-time transfer rule, Wilson could have switched schools when the coach who recruited her to Austin Peay left after the Fall 2021 season. But she’s thrived under second-year head coach Kim McGowan as a senior, logging 11 starts as a critical member of Austin Peay’s midfield and helping guide the Govs to the postseason for the first time in Wilson’s Austin Peay career.
Wilson’s soccer career at Austin Peay is drawing to a close—the senior and her Governor teammates have qualified for their first Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship, which begins Thursday, Oct. 26, in Fort Myers, Florida. Wilson will savor the experience and do her part to help the Govs secure a postseason victory for the first time since 2013, and who knows beyond that? Stranger things have happened in a conference tournament than the No. 7 seed getting hot at the right time.
As one part of a chapter in life comes to a close, another gets set to begin. Wilson began the process of applying for a post-graduate home in earnest this spring, taking the MCAT and working to line up medical school interviews. So far, so good—of the four medical school interviews she’d participated in at press time, she’s already been accepted into two schools and is waiting to hear back on the others.
Turns out, she’s got a bit of an ace in the hole when it comes to interviews.
“We spend a lot of time talking about soccer,” she said. “They don’t get many applicants that have played at this level. I’ve actually heard during the process that being a student-athlete is a big plus on applications, because it shows my dedication and my mental ability to persevere through difficult times.”
Wilson’s ultimate goal is to become a pediatrician and return to the Knoxville area to practice. The skills and perseverance she's developed have paved the way for the next chapter in her journey to become a pediatrician. Though balancing athletics and academics has had its challenges, Hannah Wilson wouldn't trade the experience for anything.