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D-B senior headed to Johns Hopkins on way to career as spinal surgeon

Rick Wagner • Jan 18, 2016 at 8:00 PM

KINGSPORT — At least one future surgeon may be walking the halls of a local high school, performing in its band and helping lead in a local Bible study group.

Dobyns-Bennett senior and Kingsport native Harrison Ihrig scored a 33 out of a possible 36 on the ACT, and with a weighted grade point average of 4.3 is in the top 10 percent of the graduating class of 2016.

However, the plans of the former public housing resident are just unfolding.

The alto saxaphone player wants to become a spinal surgeon, and the next step toward that goal is attending Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore on a full scholarship worth an estimated $68,000 a year. He will pursue a pre-med track with a major in neuroscience.

“I’ve taken all the sciences I could here,” Harrison said of Advanced Placement chemistry and physics.

Harrison, whose last name is pronounced I-rig because the h is silent, was among 584 of 1,929 who applied for an got early admission to the school.

Out of students accepted from 38 countries and 46 states, Johns Hopkins accepted four from Tennesse: One each from Memphis, Nashville, Oak Ridge and Kingsport.

“Regardless of whether I got into Johns Hopkins, I had the same (spinal surgeon) plan,” Harrison, 17, said during a Jan. 15 interview after school in the D-B band building. “I definitely had my heart set on it.”

He visited the campus in October of 2014 and really liked the school and Baltimore. However, without the scholarship, he said he and his family couldn’t afford for him to attend Johns Hopkins. They once lived in public housing, in Cloud Apartments, with his mother, Christina, and brother, Luke. He went through Lincoln Elementary and Sevier Middle schools before going to D-B.

He also applied to Vanderbilt University and George Washington University but withdrew those applications after getting a December notice of the scholarship to Johns Hopkins, which includes full tuition, room and board and transportation. The estimated value in the notice was $68,000 a year, his mother said.

However, that does not include that in his junior and senior years he may get to study abroad during the summer through a program of the school, which does not have a traditional core curriculum like most universities and colleges.

“While they don’t have you take an English course, you might take a writing-intensive class in biology,” Harrison said.

“I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to attend such a great university where I can continue my education and learn the things I want to with a group of other determined students,” Harrison said.

His mother said his winning the scholarship is “a bit overwhelming” but shows his hard work has paid off.

“In my opinion, he’s earned it,” she said.

“From an early age, starting from kindergarten day one, I have stressed education,” she said. “If you want to have any kind of future, you get a good education.”

Harrison said his quest to become a doctor started early.

“In early middle school, I just got really interested in medicine. It’s always peaked my interest,” Harrison said. “I want to be a doctor, I’m interested in helping people.” His mother recalls he told her he wanted to be a surgeon when he was in fifth grade.

Along the way on his medical path, he began attending Bible Study Two meeting his sophomore year and became a leader in that group his junior year.

“It’s had a tremendous impact on me. It’s kept me very focused and driven,” Harrison said.

He also is in the Beta Club, was in the Latin Club his junior year and ran tracn his freshment and junior year, missing his sophomore year becaue of an injury..

He has been in the school football and competition marching bands and concert bands all four years and will go with the band to march at Disney World in Florida during spring break. His sophomore brother is a tube player in the band.

Also while in the band, Harrison got to march in the Rose Bowl parade in 2014 and the second inaugural parade of President Barack Obama in 2013.

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