Family Medicine: Inspired by His Father, A Son Forges His Own Path at MSM
By Leslie Williams Johnson
“Medicine chooses you. You don’t really choose it.”
Harding Young, M.D. ’86, once dispensed this advice to his son Matthew.
“Just as a reverend or a preacher or a priest is called to the cloth, we’re giving ourselves to something greater than ourselves,” Dr. Young, 60, told his younger son. “I told him to listen to himself and his own heart.”
So, when the day came that Matthew announced that he wanted to become a physician, the news came as no surprise to his father. Of Dr. Young’s children, all successful in their own right, Matthew showed the most interest in the medical profession.
“As they were all growing up, we would have to make a stop in on Saturday at the hospital to make some quick rounds before heading to lunch or dinner whatever the occasion was,” recalled the family medicine practitioner, who is originally from Atlanta and lives and works in the Los Angeles area. “Matthew was the only one who would take me up on going in with me. As time moved on, I could see he actually enjoyed watching what I was doing, as well as hanging out with me.”
Father and son both graduated from Morehouse College. When it came time to apply to medical school, Matthew petitioned a number of schools including, Loyola Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Howard University School of Medicine, Meharry School of Medicine, and Duke University School of Medicine. But, just like the medical field itself, Morehouse School of Medicine spoke to his heart.
“Every physician I knew growing up served as my role models, and they were all Morehouse School of Medicine physicians,” Matthew said, adding that Dr. Young, as well as his friends in MSM’s class of 2022, have served the underserved and “have been active advancers of health equity in their fields.”
“Going to Morehouse College, my interactions with MSM faculty and students were very sparse, but I could still feel their message in action from the events I attended,” Matthew continued. “It was not until interview day when I truly felt at home. I could truly see myself walking through the halls and growing there. In addition, by being a Morehouse alum, I hope to continually stay active in serving as a mentor or helping-hand for anyone that is interested in pursuing medicine.”
The Young men can attest to MSM’s network of encouragement and friendship, even in the midst of intense study.
“Medical school by nature is actually a competitive place,” said Dr. Young. “There are other institutions he could have gone to that may not have had the nurturing support. That’s the way I was treated when I was there. I told him to look for the best opportunity for a diverse situation. He has always been in a very diverse group, whether it be elementary school or high school.”
His father’s advice about medical school has been spot-on. “They are probably the most supportive group of people you can meet,” Matthew, 22, said. “I don’t think there’s any one of my classmates I haven’t been able to talk to and have similar goals with.”
With his first semester behind him, Matthew said he has learned a lot about himself. “I guess I would have to say that I can tackle anything I put my mind too, for sure,” he said. “Getting here was the first obstacle. Once you’re here, there are more obstacles to take care of. Everything’s hard at first, but once you put things in your own language you can do anything.”
Matthew had considered other career paths before listening to his heart. “I actually wanted to be a veterinarian for the longest time,” he said. “We had a dog and a few fish and I just loved animals. I watched Animal Planet – ‘The Crocodile Hunter,’ you name it. It went from there to [wanting to be] a sports commentator.”
Then came the turning point. Matthew did some community service work during his senior year in high school and in college, tutoring children in both L.A. and Atlanta.
“I related it to medicine,” Matthew said of his experience, which has included reaching to future generations through tutoring stints at Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy, an MSM partner, and at Dunbar Elementary School. “I would try to track their progress. They got excited to see me. I wanted to translate that to medicine. I found my love for being with people.”
“One thing my dad told me was, you’ve got to look at experiences you’ve had in your life that made you smile,” said Matthew. “All those moments that really stuck out for me were really through some type of service.”
Although Matthew knew some people would assume he was pursuing medicine because his father did, he didn’t let that stop him.
“I can’t worry about what people think.”
For Dr. Young, his career choice was always clear. Growing up on the Atlanta University Center campus, his many role models, including his educator parents, showed him that having a strong foundation in schooling was key in reaching his goals.
“We were able to live in a circle where there were a number of physicians living near and around us,” Dr. Young said. Those groundbreaking Black doctors like Bernard Bridges, M.D. and Clinton Warner, Jr., M.D., helped shape his educational and medical pursuits.
Now it’s Matthew’s turn to define his future. Through speakers at school, shadowing physicians in the Atlanta area, and of course his father, Matthew is getting a good look inside his chosen line of work. He said he is still deciding between pediatrics and family medicine.
“I like the interpersonal relationships you can have, being able to take care of generations of families and being able to counsel them on promoting the healthiest lifestyle possible is really attractive to me,” Matthew said.
Dr. Young said he’s confident that his son will be a stellar physician.
“He’s going to be very caring, very compassionate and he will be very knowledgeable,” said the proud father.