PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — As a teacher, Jonathan Stormer has always valued education. But a few years ago, he decided he wanted to become educated in a different field — medicine.
When Stormer told friends and family that he was going to give up his teaching job at Greater Houlton Christian Academy to become a doctor, some were not exactly supportive.
They thought he was crazy to go from a two income household to one, especially with one child with cystic fibrosis and another young boy that needed attention. Why spend four years in college and then even more in medical school?
Stormer didn’t need four years. The 32-year-old who lives in Arundel took just two and a half years to earn his Bachelor of Science in biology with a pre-med concentration from the University of Maine at Presque Isle last month.
“It was a lot of work,” he admitted on Friday. “It was lots of studying in between caring for the children with a lot of support from my wife. It would not have been possible without her.”
Stormer and his wife, Meredith originally lived in the Houlton area and he taught at Greater Houlton Christian Academy for three years. During that time, he decided he wanted to become a chiropractor and looked into attending UMPI.
Except, he discovered that the private college he graduated from was non-accredited, meaning that no accredited schools would accept his credits. So, he essentially began from scratch and had to first pursue a bachelor’s degree before he could enter medical school.
Stormer took several classes through the Houlton Higher Education Center in 2008 and started full-time on the Presque Isle campus in 2009. Early on, Dr. Bonnie Wood, a biology professor at UMPI, talked with him about becoming a doctor instead of a chiropractor.
“That was something I had never really thought of, and when she said that, it was like a light switch clicked on in my brain,” said Stormer. “I did a bit of job shadowing and realized that there is a huge physician shortage in rural areas. So I decided to go for it.”
Wood, he said, gave him the confidence to pursue his new goal.
Just a year into this work, his first son Atlas was born and diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The family moved to southern Maine to be near the only cystic fibrosis clinic in the state. Stormer took a year and a half off from his studies to focus on his family, and his second son Corban was born in 2012.
But Stormer was determined to finish his degree.
He took a hybrid of live classes at UMPI, online science classes through the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine in Orono that transferred back to his UMPI degree, and he earned college credit through CLEP tests.
“It pretty much amounted to ten hour days,” he said. “It was a lot of strain on me, but especially on my wife. She was the major support through it all.”
Other people, he said, initially weren’t as supportive.
“I heard people tell me that I should be working and not making my wife be the only income for our household, that I was too old to be going to medical school, that I had a sick child and that I should be focusing on him,” he said. “It was hard to hear at times.”
In May, he graduated summa cum laude from UMPI.
He has been accepted to the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine in North Carolina. He plans to go through the four-year program there and complete a three- to seven-year residency, so he can become a doctor of osteopathic medicine.
Stormer and his family are feeling blessed that this opportunity will allow Atlas to have access to one of the top ranked cystic fibrosis clinics in the United States, located at nearby Duke University.
Stormer gives his professors credit for his success, as well as UMPI as a whole. He also added that his accomplishment is an example for others.
“In this country, you can pretty much work to achieve any goal that you set for yourself,” he said on Friday. “You just have to work hard for it. I am proud to live in this country. This is still the land of opportunity.”