Both times, Stephenson, a first-year medical student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, noticed the particular way his doctors cared for him. All of them had the same goal, he said, to help him return to competition safely.
"Being an athlete, having a body that aches, and still needing to perform at the highest level, I know first-hand how impactful a health care team is and I know I want to help other athletes," Stephenson said.
That’s why, upon graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2019, Stephenson embarked on the next chapter of his life at UNMC, inspired in part by his desire to help others and by his older brother Chris Stephenson who is a second-year medical student at UNMC.
"Chris has been such a powerful influence in my life and is such a strong mentor to me, not just athletically but academically," Stephenson said of his brother, who also is an accomplished gymnast who competed at UNL.
At UNMC Stephenson said he is exploring all aspects of medical school.
"With every new class I take, I love the subject and think, that would be an interesting career," Stephenson said.
So far, he’s considered careers in anesthesia, orthopedics and infectious disease.
He also has applied for Medical Student Summer Research Program of Excellence, but in the end, isn’t sure what he will end up pursuing as a career.
"I definitely want to find fulfillment in whatever career path I chose," Stephenson said.
For now he’s taking it one day at a time and immersing himself in medical school, in the same fashion he did as a student athlete at UNL, where he earned multiple Big Ten titles, NCAA awards and a USA Gymnastics national championship.
And on Jan. 22, Stephenson will travel to Anaheim, Calif., where he will attend an awards ceremony in which he will be named one of the NCAA’s Today’s Top 10 athletes.
Stephenson said competing at the highest level of gymnastics taught him discipline, focus and to never compromise his well-being.
Eating healthy, getting enough sleep and attending to his mental wellbeing through meditation will undoubtedly carry him through medical school, just as it did through his undergraduate and athletic career, he said.
A list of awards Stephenson has received throughout his athletic career include:
USA Gymnastics National Champion 2018
NCAA All-American (4x) 2016, 2018, 2019, 2019
NCAA 1st Team Academic All-American 2019
NCAA First Team Academic All-American (3x) 2017, 2018, 2019
Big Ten Wayne-Duke Award Recipient 2019
Big Ten Conference Champion (4x) 2017, 2018, 2018, 2019
Big Ten First Team All-Conference member (3x) 2017, 2018, 2019
Big Ten Gymnast of the Year 2019
Big Ten Distinguished Scholar (3x) 2017, 2018, 2019
Nebraska Male Student-Athlete of the Year 2019
*Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award 2018
*Awarded to Nebraska student-athletes expressing academic achievement, mentoring, and leadership.
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