Carroll native headed to Harvard

By Allen Worrell

July 10, 2014

He graduated from high school at the age of 16. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a Medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. He’s also completed three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

And while he may not be “the most interesting man in the world,” the guy from the Dos Equis commercial certainly doesn’t have much on Carroll County native Sam Turner. It was obvious Turner has experienced much in his 38 years when he was recently asked about his acceptance into Harvard.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Turner said. “It ought to be a nice break.”

Turner, son of long-time Carroll County Judge Edward M. Turner, III, recently moved to Boston, Mass., where he will enter Harvard’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Program. As part of the residency program, Turner will complete a Master’s of Public Health degree through Harvard’s School of Public Health.

A 1993 graduate of Carroll County High School at the tender age of 16, Turner matriculated at the University of Virginia, where he graduated in 1997 with a double major in chemistry and physics. Having participated in an ROTC program at UVa, Turner earned a commission in the U.S. Navy as an Ensign upon graduation. He earned his Doctor of Medicine Degree in 2001 from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

Turner certainly didn’t slow down from there, starting full-time service in the Navy, where he was promoted to Lieutenant prior to starting his general surgery internship at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Over the past 12 years, Turner has been stationed at Camp Lejeune three times. He served tours of duty as a medical doctor to both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 before returning to Afghanistan in 2011 during the War on Terror.

“They were definitely some eye-opening experiences. I think I grew a lot personally and professionally from my experiences overseas,” Turner said. “During the invasion of Iraq, we were right there on the front lines, especially during the Battle of Nasiriyah. Those were some interesting times, but we somehow managed to get through it. My infantry battalion completed two combat deployments and nobody was killed in either deployment.”

But recently, Turner was struggling to find out which direction he wanted to go with his career. About a year ago, a friend suggested Turner look into occupational medicine. Some of his friends had gone in that direction and were happy with their work.

“They were two Navy guys I knew who graduated from the program at Harvard and I decided I would give it a shot. I had to apply to the programs as well as to the Navy to authorize me to go and for funding,” Turner said. “I am very excited. This is a huge opportunity. It’s a minor miracle that all of this fell into place.”

Three Navy physicians were chosen for this field last year. Two entered the Military training program in Bethesda, MD and Turner was allowed to go to Harvard. Turner said usually one Naval resident is chosen for Harvard’s program every other year. By virtue of the Navy paying for Turner’s school, he will owe the Navy two more years of service.

“It’s a pretty good deal. As part of the residency program, I will be getting a Master’s of Public Health degree. Plus, I will obtain residency training in occupational medicine, which will ultimately lead to my obtaining board certification in occupational medicine,” Turner said. “I could enter the civilian world (after the two-year commitment), but I will be three years from retirement at that point. I would be at 20 years and could retire with a pension and then work in the civilian world.”

Turner and his wife, Emily, have four children – Liam (age 8), Jack (6), Natalie (4) and Michael (2). At Harvard, Turner will be administratively attached to the Naval ROTC unit for Boston University and MIT. And even though he will now be among the world’s elite students, he plans to keep his sense of humor and remind everyone of where he came from.

“I want to get the Harvard logo fit on one of those tree-barked camouflage ball-caps so I can wear it around Boston and show my pride in my southern roots,” Turner said. “I think I will also grow my beard out.”