Daniel Martinez went from the U.S. Marines Corps to medical school based on his educational experience at Lone Star College-Kingwood.

Daniel Martinez did not let his nontraditional path toward a college degree deter him.

The youngest of nine children, Martinez never dreamed that he would go to college. After high school, the first-generation college student's first attempt in higher education was rocky. Without academic and financial guidance, he worked 60 hours a week to pay for courses.

"I was in school, but I did not have a clear path nor goal. Eventually, the stress of working and going to class became too much. I withdrew from college and joined the military," Martinez said. "After four years in the Marine Corps, I went back to school and had a very different experience."

While in the military, Martinez saw firsthand how injured Marines struggled through their physical rehabilitation. This experience sparked him to reenter college and pursue a career in the health care field. Martinez enrolled in Lone Star College-Kingwood in summer 2016. He soon noticed how the professors cared about their students' successes, and this positive shift was far different from his first attempt at a college education.

"It was intimidating to reenter school after being out for nearly 10 years. However, it was an amazing experience. Within the first day, Dr. Cassandra Rincones (social sciences and humanities dean and former history professor) set the tone for my time at the college. She was very upbeat and always happy to be around," he said. 

At LSC-Kingwood, Martinez took an anatomy and physiology course with Dr. Mike Clark, who later became his mentor. This relationship put the student on the path to medical school.

"The military taught me the importance of good leadership; that is what I found in Dr. Clark. Not only was he a great educator, but he also motivated and encouraged me to believe in myself," he said. "I wouldn't be where I am today without him."

Dr. Clark, an OB-GYN, started as an adjunct professor at LSC-Kingwood in 1990. During his tenure, his students either attended medical school or became successful in their careers, and these accomplishments are why he continues to teach. 

"As a doctor, my goal is to help patients get better in terms of their health. As an educator, I want to be a contributing factor in inspiring students to go further than I did," Dr. Clark said. "I am very proud of all of my students who succeed." 

Regarding Martinez, Dr. Clark believed that the student's family background, military experience and academic abilities would be valuable to the medical profession. The professor made a pointed statement in Martinez's medical school referral letter.

"I have taught numerous students during my teaching career. I have taught graduate and undergraduate mammalian physiology, clinical medicine and been on clinical staff in Obstetrics and Gynecology," he said. "In my opinion, Daniel Martinez is a superiorly qualified individual for any academic research or training program."

Martinez graduated from LSC-Kingwood in August 2017. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Houston in May. He is currently pursuing a medical degree at McGovern Medical School (UT Health) and will specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Martinez is married with three children.

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