After working for several years in the field of aerospace quality, Allen Archer decided to use the knowledge he had acquired on the job and combine it with his interest in various fields of health care to pursue a career in medicine. .
Archer has lived in many places but calls Asheville, North Carolina his hometown. By the time he graduated from high school, he had already started working. He started out as a painter at an automation company that built robots and manufacturing machines, then worked his way up to become a quality engineer at an aerospace manufacturing company before changing direction to pursue a more fulfilling second career. .
Archer became the first member of his family to attend college and earned his associate’s degree at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (AB Tech). After enrolling to complete his four-year degree at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, he discovered ETSU at a school fair at AB Tech. He attended an ETSU Open House and spoke with Dr. Karen Kornweibel, who encouraged him to apply for the ETSU Honors College. She followed him a few days later to encourage him to apply again, and he was later admitted to Honors College with the Midway Honors Scholarship for Transfer Students.
“It wasn’t just the scholarship,” Archer said. “It was ETSU’s commitment to reach out and make me feel welcome. It suited me well. »
Now aged, Archer chose to major in health administration to complement his interest in medicine and the skills he acquired during his earlier career. He is simultaneously working toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field, and after graduating in May, he will enter ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine.
Archer says he comes from a large farming family that historically didn’t go to college and didn’t understand the healthcare system.
“I’ve spent most of my life without insurance and I’m hesitant to go to the doctor,” he said. “I’m not afraid of doctors; I’m not afraid of medicine. I’m scared on the other side – how much will it cost and how do I know what to expect? This lifetime of apprehension, combined with my experience in quality improvement, has drawn me into health administration to better understand how our health care system is structured, how we got here, and how we can move forward. positive way.
“I go to medical school to become a doctor, but I believe the intersection between health administration, public health, and medicine is where I can have the greatest impact.”
Archer is already making an impact through his honors thesis research on COVID-19 statistical reporting. Under the direction of Dr. Randy Wykoff, Dean of ETSU’s College of Public Health, he studied how excess mortality is identified.
“We used COVID as a natural experiment to better understand how something like a pandemic impacts society beyond confirmed COVID deaths,” he explained. “We know that X number of people have died from COVID in the state of Tennessee, but that doesn’t reflect the full impact. Many people died indirectly as a result of the pandemic. For example, some people have never contracted COVID, but have chosen not to receive care for other illnesses for fear of contracting the virus. Some hospitals were overwhelmed, so patients could not receive care for non-COVID illnesses. On top of all that, there are long delays in reporting data at the state level. It wasn’t until October 2021 that we actually got data for 2020 deaths. It’s hard to be proactive or react quickly with delays of months.
Using public data sources, such as funeral homes and newspaper obituaries, Archer and Wykoff much more quickly identified excess mortality figures very similar to state data.
In addition to this research, Archer is a research assistant at ETSU Health’s Institute for Integrated Behavioral Health, which provides behavioral health services to the community through collaboration with primary care providers within care clinics. primary from ETSU Health. Archer has been very involved in the community and played a vital role in coordinating ETSU Health’s vaccination clinics over the past year.
“I was able to interact with our community in a ‘boots on the ground’ way,” he said. “Without a clinical license or the ability to physically put needles in my arms myself, coordinating these events was the most impactful thing I could do at a time when we were all trying to pull through.”
As a member of the Street Medicine Interest Group, he also provided clinical care and testing, as well as aiding in vaccination efforts, for homeless people in Appalachia.
Involvement in campus life is also important to Archer. He has served as president of three student organizations, and the former senator and cabinet member of the Student Government Association was recently elected to represent students on the ETSU Board of Trustees for the coming year.
Archer emphasizes campus involvement with his peers in the many mentorship situations he enjoys as a senior student and second career.
“One of the things I tell the people I advise is that my favorite thing about ETSU is the ability to really get involved,” he said. “I’ve only been here two years and I’ve been able to do so many things that I probably couldn’t have done anywhere else. ETSU’s small-town feel is paired with a ton of opportunity. There aren’t many schools where you can just find something that interests you, email a dean or professor, and get involved almost immediately with research or various events and opportunities.
Before graduating in May, Archer is looking forward to spending two weeks in Washington, DC, as a visiting scholar with the American Board of Family Medicine. After graduation, he is excited to attend Quillen College of Medicine on the rural primary care track through the U.S. Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program, which will allow him to begin his career in the service of the Air Force after completing his medical training.