By Ashley Benkarski
NASHVILLE, TN — Many people have their lives planned out early on and find themselves in unexpected circumstances, treading paths they never would have considered.
For Kerwin Scott, that plan was a future in marine biology, a passion nurtured with career-based programs at Vincent High School of Agricultural Sciences in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
While making decisions for college, a friend suggested Scott to pursue medicine–it would be much easier to work with humans than with the extensive diversity of marine life. But he had no doctors in his family, he said, and didn’t know any personally, so he enrolled in the Marine Corps where he worked as a tax preparer and motor vehicle operator in Camp Lejuene, N.C. after high school graduation.
Between the hustle of training and military duties he’d think about his friend’s words. So he decided to “shoot for the stars” after he left the Corps in 2002.
But science wasn’t his only passion–he also harbored a love for basketball and wanted to play for Duke University’s Blue Devils. Since he’d been out of school for four years he was exempt from taking the ACT/SAT tests for college admission but thought he wouldn’t get a scholarship substantial enough to cover tuition and other expenses right off the bat. He needed an affordable undergraduate option that would allow him to hone his skills in biology and basketball to get him to Duke’s campus.
At the behest of a friend from his time in the Corps he tried out for (and made) North Carolina’s University of Mt. Olive basketball team, but he struggled with keeping his grades up and was put on academic probation, ultimately leaving the school and moving back to Milwaukee to figure out what he would do next.
The answer came to him as he was dropping off his cousin at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn. As an HBCU, Lane offered him a space where he was understood and supported, and no longer in the minority. He began work in 2006 at the West Tennessee Center for Oral and Facial Surgery in Jackson, where he’s still employed, and at the Social Security Administration in Memphis in 2010 where he worked until 2015.
Lane was also where he met his future wife, Carjamin, who holds a doctorate in education from Lipscomb University. When he saw her at a barbeque, he knew right away she was the one he’d spend the rest of his life with. “She was just different,” he said. They dated for two years before marrying, and they now have two children; Kerwin Jr., 2, and Channing, 6.
Scott graduated from Lane Magna Cum Laude with a cumulative GPA of 3.7 and was awarded the MV Lynx Black Medical Society award for outstanding academic achievement and volunteer service while he studied there.
He changed course from cardiology to dentistry, enrolling at Meharry’s College of Dentistry where he graduated earlier this year. During his time there Dr. Scott was involved in numerous volunteer efforts including Meharry’s Oral Health Day, which provides community members oral care and other preventative health programs offered through partnering organizations such as Remote Area Medical.
Dr. Scott and his family will be moving to Florida this year, as he’s secured a residency at the University of Florida-Gainesville’s Periodontology Department.
He plans to establish a private practice in Memphis to help the community once he’s finished his residency.
Though it’s been a long, winding journey of what Scott initially thought of as coincidences, he said he’s sure this is the path he should be walking. “It was God,” he said. “It was complete strangers sometimes” who would appear in his life and direct him, knowingly or not, to the path he’s on now.
For anyone feeling unmotivated, unsure of themselves, or struggling to walk in their truth, Scott has one piece of advice: Don’t underestimate the power of your potential.