As a boy, Wade See dreamed about becoming a physician, but traveled a circuitous, adventurous path to that goal. In his first detour, at Texas A&M University, he “ran screaming out of chemistry class” and into agricultural journalism and wildlife biology. Dream deferred.

After a first job in Dallas, the great Northwest called to him. A master falconer, he moved to Boise to serve as a research biologist. There, he radio-tracked falcons and observed nests in the Snake River Canyon.

He also took up hang gliding. “It didn’t go well,” See recalls. “I broke my arm, but after great medical care, I realized ‘I need to do something like this.’” Dream rekindled.

See earned a paramedic’s license and worked as an EMT in Idaho. He also served as a firefighter. Next, his passion for flying — he’s also a licensed fixed-wing and helicopter pilot — drew him to Missoula and four years as a critical-care flight paramedic. The teams served rural residents needing transport and flew rescue missions into the backcountry, providing the dual enjoyment of saving lives and seeing the magnificent countryside. “Still, I wasn’t satisfied,” See says. “I wanted to understand more about what was going on with patients.”

An advanced paramedic course fanned the spark into a flame and spurred him to complete pre-med requirements at the University of Montana in Missoula. Spending his first year in medical school at Montana State University in Bozeman, one of the UW School of Medicine’s partner WWAMI sites, was the “natural choice.” See says his 13-year EMT career eased his way through clinical rotations, and his experience led to service on the UW School of Medicine’s admissions and curriculum renewal committees. “Both were very rewarding — a real privilege,” See says.

After graduating this coming June, See will embark on a five-year general surgery residency. He is grateful that scholarship support lowered his debt load so he can eventually practice in Montana. Other goals include teaching in the Montana WWAMI program and becoming involved in trauma prevention efforts.

See notes that surgical rotations in Libby, Mont., reinforced his goal to become a general surgeon in a rural community. “I saw how much difference they make in people’s lives, and I love the close connection with a rural community,” he says.

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