KYCO student earns full-ride Army scholarship

New Jersey native Hunter Smith has always been interested in being of service to others. Soon the second-year University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) student will be taking that service to a whole new level. 

Thanks in part to his earning a full-ride scholarship through the F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), Smith was commissioned by UPIKE Vice President of Operations and Human Resources Michael Pacheco as a Second Lieutenant Officer in the United States Army on October 3. 

Each year, the Army offers the HPSP scholarship to students pursuing advanced degrees in various medical professions. The award carries a multitude of benefits in exchange for the commitment to service, including full tuition reimbursement, a monthly stipend, officer’s pay during academic breaks and more.

Earning the extensive scholarship is no small feat. The competitive process requires stellar academic performance, comprehensive background checks and multiple recommendation letters, in addition to the standard physical requirements military service demands.

Dean of KYCO Michael Bacigalupi, O.D., M.S., FAAO, says there are very few HPSP scholarships awarded each year nationwide and this is a first for KYCO. 

“We are very proud of Hunter for earning the HPSP scholarship. This outstanding scholarship allows him to concentrate on his optometric education and become the best optometrist he can be,” said Bacigalupi. “The important work he will do in the future as an Army optometrist will benefit our country for years to come.”   

Smith’s hometown instilled the true value of community and what it means to help and serve others by becoming a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). His time spent as an EMT solidified his interest in the healthcare profession and provided him with the foundational knowledge that has facilitated his success as a student at KYCO. 

“I am incredibly honored and deeply humbled to be a recipient of the F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship through the United States Army. As a Second Lieutenant Officer, I will strive to serve an even greater good and to be part of a higher purpose as I serve my country while continuing my education here at KYCO,” said Smith. “I believe it is my duty to do everything in my power to serve the greatest cause by giving back to the country that has done so much for all of us. I am incredibly grateful that the Army has provided me this extraordinary opportunity so that I may serve others in the most tremendous way possible, all while allowing me to engage in my passion and love of practicing medicine to become an Army Optometric Physician.”