Student Profiles

Keegan Cole 1

Keegan Cole

  • MD Student, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Class of 2016
  • Hometown: Windham, New Hampshire
  • Alma Mater or Undergrad School: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    • Major: Biomedical Engineering

What drew you to the study of medicine? "Initially, the complexities and intricacies of the human body, especially with regard to strength, injury, and repair in athletics."

When Keegan Cole started training as a rock climber during grade school in his home state of New Hampshire, he marveled at the capabilities of the human body. "From a mechanical standpoint, the things the strongest climbers were capable of doing would blow my mind," he remembers. "The fact that the climbers' tendons could grip the tiniest handhold, plus the body's ability to get stronger and repair injuries—I really started to respect the physical form of the human body through climbing." Both the sport of rock climbing and the fascination with physiology would end up shaping his life.

Cole, now a first-year student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has collected a healthy share of medals as a competitive rock climber. He started competing in the sport in 2004, making his way to regional, divisional, national, and even world levels of competition. He is a two-time national champion in speed climbing (in 2008 and 2009) and a two-time runner-up in the continental championship (which encompasses North America and Mexico). Cole also scored high enough at nationals to be invited to join Team USA four times, going on to compete at the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Youth Championship in Ecuador in 2007, Australia in 2008, and France in 2009 (where he earned his highest ranking of 11th place). "Each World Cup begins with an opening ceremony and parade of nations," he says, "and walking with your team under the American flag is a feeling of immense pride."

After moving to New York to attend Icahn School of Medicine, Cole selected his new gym, Manhattan Plaza Health Club, and makes time to train there at least once each week—which he finds to be a helpful outlet from the demands of school. "For me, climbing is totally liberating—mentally and physically," he says. "You've got the wall in front of you, and you have to think about how you're going to approach the problem of getting to the top of it. So I'm able to clear my mind, focus, and just get lost in it." He's also considering coaching a youth team in the future, an activity he's enjoyed in the past.

And Cole has found that climbing a wall and preparing for a career in medicine have a few things in common. "You can't get halfway up a wall and freak out," he says. "You've got to keep a level head under pressure and think through problems while you're doing it. So both climbing and medicine involve problem-solving and focus, and a lot of perseverance."

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