Ethan Craig as an adult

Ethan Craig had no doubts he’d be a doctor one day. And he knew he’d get the necessary training at the University of Iowa.

After all, he was familiar with the hospital and much of its staff; Craig was a patient at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital for the first 15 years of his life.

“Everything I’d gone through made me want to be a doctor,” says Craig, 25, of Cedar Rapids. “It was 110 percent a factor in why I’m in medical school now. I remember watching the doctors and thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I could do what they do?’”

He’s now well on his way. Craig is a third-year medical student at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, and plans to pursue pediatric medicine or pediatric surgery.

[[{"attributes":{},"fields":{}}]]Craig was born in South Korea with a cleft lip and a cleft palate and was adopted when he was 8 months old by Jim and Debbie Craig of Cedar Rapids. The Craigs had adopted a little girl from South Korea just a few years earlier. She had a successful transition period, so the adoption agency reached out to see if they’d be interested in adopting an infant with special medical needs.

He arrived in the United States when he was eight months old, and quickly had his first surgery to repair the cleft palate. That would be the first of many surgeries over the next 10 years. At that point, he got braces and started speech therapy. When the braces came off at 14, he says, he hardly recognized himself.[[{"attributes":{},"fields":{}}]]

“To be honest, I’d gotten used to wearing this big halo thing (for stabilizing my chin) and the braces and everything else. It took a while to be able to look in the mirror and realize I wasn’t looking at someone else,” he says. “It was really a dramatic change in how I saw myself.”

Ethan graduated from Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids in 2009. Knowing he’d be coming back to the University of Iowa for graduate and medical school, he went out of state for his undergraduate degree. He then returned to Iowa and got a master’s degree in public health before starting medical school.

He says he knows he’s in the right place, doing what he really wants to do.

“I did my surgical rotation in the spring (2016) and got to work with Deborah Kacmarynski, MD. She was a resident when I first had my surgery,” he says. “She would have been working with my surgeon when I came through.”

“I got to sit through a cleft repair, and it was amazing seeing it from that perspective,” Ethan says. “It was an amazing transformation to watch happen, to know from experience just how much that child’s life is going to change.”

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