November 20, 2017

RSSTwitterFacebookGooglePlusLinkedinYouTube
ACMC on Instagram

Music and Medicine: How Medical Student Noah Kelm Went from Singer to Surgeon

Noah KelmAs a third-year medical student, Noah Kelm is well on his way to becoming a doctor. Although Noah felt he was always meant to be in the medical field, it wasn’t the first dream he set out to achieve. Before becoming a medical student, he pursued his dreams of becoming a professional musician. Noah has always been passionate about two things: music and medicine. Even though his journey to becoming a doctor led him on a different path than most, he wouldn’t change a thing.

When Noah was a teenager living in Sartell, Minnesota, he remembers riding in the car with his dad, listening to music. “I fell in love with rock music,” Noah remembered. “I’ve always been interested in knowing how things work and I wanted to know how the noise was made.”

So at 14 years old, Noah traded in his old trumpet for a cheap guitar and taught himself how to play. Before he knew it, Noah was obsessed. “You hear stories of guys like Eddie Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaughan playing for ten hours a day, that was me,” Noah said. “I was playing music that I felt sounded like it could be on an album. I was sure I had what it took to make it in music.”

When his senior year of high school arrived, he had to make a decision on what to do with his future. Noah said, when it came to school, he had a type-A personality and was very particular about his grades. He was an honor student and had received scholarships to several schools. However, Noah wasn’t sure he was ready to give up his dream of becoming a musician. “Believe it or not, I had really long hair and just wanted to play music for a living,” Noah reminisced.

However, with much of his family graduating from St. Cloud State University, Noah decided he would take a chance and give college a try. With an interest in science, Noah began working towards his career in medicine. But after just one year, Noah decided that he wanted to put his education on hold. “I was so full of energy and had no time at that point in my life for a classroom,” Noah said. “I wanted to jump on a bus, pay my dues, and become a musician.”

And he did just that. With the support of his family, a greyhound bus ticket, and a couple thousand dollars in his pocket, Noah made the move to Nashville. “I knew the odds of actually making it weren’t great but I gave myself a deadline of my 25th birthday,” Noah explained. “I just wanted to make a few albums and play some shows. I didn’t want to have any regrets.”

Noah and Dr. VanBeekDuring his time in Nashville, Noah played hundreds of shows and made several albums. “Some of my experiences were awesome and I thought my dream was coming true,” Noah remembered. “Then there were times I would play to one person. I truly tried it all.”

After three years, Noah made the decision that it was time to pursue a his other passion. “I was 24 at the time and I told my drummer that I was going to move back home to become a surgeon,” Noah said. “He thought I was crazy but I knew it was the right choice for me.”

So Noah packed up and returned to St. Cloud State University, where he began working towards becoming a doctor. He took his first job in the medical field, working as an aid at a nursing home in Central Minnesota. “That was the first hands-on medical experience I had,” Noah said. “It was hard work but I really loved it.”

St. Cloud State was also where Noah met his wife, Nicole, who he had been tutoring at the time. As a medical scribe, she is also passionate about medicine and helping the medically underserved through mission work. Nicole hopes to continue her education to also become a doctor. 

After graduating from St. Cloud State, Noah began medical school at Des Moines University (DMU) in Iowa. It was here that he realized he was passionate about medicine in all its forms. “I always wanted to be a surgeon but as I got into medical school, my interests varied,” Noah explained. “Before I knew it, I was interested in everything from gynecology to cardiology. Each system that I spent time in fascinated me.”

This is what led him to ACMC Health. As a third-year medical student, Noah is spending 10 months working alongside doctors throughout the ACMC system. As the only DMU student in Willmar this year, Noah has been able to explore many specialties within the clinic. “I feel very fortunate,” Noah explained. “I’ve gotten a lot of one-on-one attention and I have done things I never thought I would get to do.”

Since coming to Willmar in July, Noah has worked primarily with Dr. Jayme VanBeek, Dr. Daniel Fuglestad, and Dr. Ryan Davis in Family Medicine. He has received valuable experience with patients and is very happy with the doctors’ commitment to teaching him their trade. In addition, because Dr. VanBeek was the first DMU medical student to complete rotations at ACMC in 2009, Noah has been lucky enough to learn from the nurses that helped train him. 

Noah and Dr. SchultzNoah has also spent time in the surgical department, shadowing Dr. Katie Reigstad, Dr. Ryan Lussenden and Dr. Steven Bell. Although he hasn’t chosen a specialty, Noah’s time with the surgeons has been valuable. “I have really been getting involved with all the aspects of surgery from tying off vessels to making patient rounds,” Noah explained. 

Most recently, Noah has been working with Dr. Scott Schultz in the obstetric/gynecology department at ACMC-Litchfield. “Dr. Schultz has let me be very hands on with c-sections and other gynecologic surgeries,” Noah said. “He has been a great mentor.”

In the coming months, Noah will also spend time in the pediatrics department in Marshall and in several electives including oncology and orthopedic surgery. “Since I am passionate about so many different specialties, I want to spend time in each one,” Noah said. “I feel like that will be the best way to determine where I am meant to be.”

Although he isn’t sure where he will go after medical school, Noah believes ACMC in Willmar would be a great place to end up. “Honestly, I could see myself working here forever,” he said. “I love the environment and being able to drive home on weekends to spend time with my family.”

From one dream to the next, Noah is excited to see what life in the medical field has in store. Whether in the operating room or delivery room, Noah hopes ACMC Health will help him find his way.