Try, try again: A story of second chances

Published: November 17th, 2016

Category: Scholarships

By Tyler Francischine

Chris Henson with stethoscope

Chris Henson, MS1. Photo by Mindy C. Miller

For first-year UF College of Medicine student Chris Henson, two second chances landed him where he is today.

The first came in the form of quality care for his mother, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2007. She told Henson that her oncologist made her feel more like a number than a human being, and he ignored her concerns in order to rush through each appointment. It wasn’t until she saw an oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Illinois that her quality of life began to improve. She passed away in 2008, surpassing the life expectancy her initial oncologist gave her.

Henson recalls seeing his mother smile for the first time after receiving her diagnosis and says this moment was when he knew medicine was his future.

“I saw in this experience how much the relationship between the health care team and the patient can impact an illness,” he says. “I saw an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life just like these doctors impacted the lives of my family.”

A few years later, another second chance came to Henson when he was accepted to the UF College of Medicine. His first application was rejected, but this year he joined the ranks of the class of 2020.

He says receiving the J. Stephen Waters Scholarship, which was established for second-chance students to honor the legacy of Steve Waters, M.D. ’75, makes him hopeful for his future. As a member of the college’s admission committee, Waters would have interviewed Henson for admittance, but Waters died suddenly in May 2015, one month before Henson applied.

“Being chosen for the Waters Scholarship has given me a great deal of confidence. Steve Waters inspired me to become the best physician I can be,” he says. “The Waters family and the College of Medicine believe in me and want to help me achieve my goals.”

Henson says his experiences at the College of Medicine have been marked by collaboration and caring.

“Everyone is so close that it seems more like a family than a group of students,” he says. “Having a close learning group meeting with a faculty member every week allows us to talk about how everything is going. They truly care about how you are doing.”

When he’s not studying, Henson enjoys freediving and exploring the nearby caves and caverns of the natural springs system, which he photographs with an underwater camera.

He says being a medical student has taught him how to understand the bigger picture instead of getting bogged down in the details.

“If any obstacles seem to prevent you from achieving your goals, find a way to work around them,” he says. “Don’t give up on your dreams.”