Austin Kleint, 22, is in his first year of medical school at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest in Lebanon.

In the fall, he campaigned for a position in student government and now serves as official liaison between the Lebanon and Pomona, Calif., campuses of the Western University of Health Sciences. In addition to his regular class work, Kleint has launched a research project to study chronic lower back in bicyclists.

Kleint is also serving as a volunteer assistant coach with the Lebanon High School varsity wrestling program.

One might worry that Kleint is taking on too much, but he sees it the other way. He isn’t succeeding in medical school despite his busy schedule, he is succeeding because of his full schedule.

It is a secret he learned during his undergraduate days at California Baptist University in Riverside, Calif. In addition to his studies, he also competed for the school’s successful wrestling program.

“It gave me a lot on my plate. I found it almost easier,” Kleint said of his time at Cal Baptist. “It made me stay on top of everything. A lot of people who just do academics, they could slack, let the school work get ahead of them. I didn’t have that luxury.”

He does not underestimate the difficulty of medical school, he just knows what works best for him.

“It’s way more difficult now. It’s nice being able to go up there and get a workout in and clear my head,” said Kleint. “I work out every single day. I think it’s imperative for my mental health, especially since I’m going to be sitting for 12 hours a day, to get my blood pumping.”

Kleint graduated from East Linn Christian Academy in 2014. He competed for the Lebanon wrestling program because ELCA does not offer that sport. He had already built a relationship Warriors varsity coach Michael Cox.

Kleint met Cox through the youth wrestling program and that relationship continued off mat.

“I started out baby-sitting his kids,” Kleint said.

After proving himself in that capacity, Kleint also spent three summer working for the grass-seed farm owned by Cox’ father.

“Great kid. Maybe the toughest kid I’ve ever coached. He wrestled, placed at the state meet with a torn labrum in his hip and his shoulder,” Cox said, recalling Kleint’s senior season with the Warriors.

Kleint wrestled at 145 pounds his senior year in high school and competed at 165 and 174 pounds in college. As a wrestling assistant, he spends most of his time with the program’s big men, such as Lane Blisseck (182) and Keith Brown (220). Both are among the top contenders in the state in their divisions and it is helpful to learn from Kleint’s experience.

“It gives us different looks. There’s some ways that Cox teaches us and there’s some ways that he teaches us,” Blisseck said. “He’s got newer experience at the college level. Cox has older experience at the college level.”

While Blisseck has teammates his size to practice against, Brown has fewer options and spends much of his time with Kleint, who enjoys working with such a talented pupil.

“Obviously, his athleticism. When he steps on a mat, I don’t think there’s a kid who’s as athletic as he is,” Kleint said. “He’s been wrestling a long time. He has a pretty good skill set. On his feet is where he’s best.”

Being able to assist the Lebanon program is just one benefit of attending medical school in his home town. Kleint was attracted to COMP-NW not just because of its location but because its students boast a high board-pass rate, a strong retention rate and a great residency-match rate.

He also hopes to eventually practice medicine in this area.

“I thought there’s no better place to learn than the place I want to practice medicine. It would be awesome if I were able to do my residency in Corvallis,” Kleint said.

He is in only his first year of medical school and will not have to declare a specialty for another couple of years. He is keeping an open mind but is currently leaning toward pediatrics.

Kleint is a recipient of the Girod Medical Scholarship, administered by the Lebanon Community Hospital Foundation. The scholarship was established by the family of the late Frank Girod, MD, one of the founding physicians of Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital.

The Girod family’s goal is to make medical education more affordable for students from east Linn County. Scholarships can range up to $8,000.

“It takes a weight off my shoulders, knowing I won’t have to worry as much about financing my education,” Kleint said. “There are a lot of disparities in rural health care. My experiences so far, and receiving the Girod scholarship, have helped me isolate that I want to practice medicine in a rural community.”

The foundation is accepting applications now for the Girod scholarship, as well as the Rachel Easton RN Scholarship for nursing students, and the Dinges Scholarship for health career students at Linn-Benton Community Colleges. Applications and more information are available on the Linn County scholarship page.

Anyone who shares the Girod family’s passion is invited to contribute to the scholarship fund. Visit samhealth.org/LCHF or call 541-451-6303.

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