Stephen McNulty: Finds his calling is in medicine


Canton native Stephen McNulty arrived at UA to major in biology by way of New Zealand, Japan and Tahiti.

His journey began in 2011, after a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand, where he had been studying biosecurity and marine biology at The University of Canterbury. Even though the school closed, McNulty did not immediately return home to Ohio. Having earned a living for years traveling the world as a wildlife photographer, he did what came natural — he started photographing the scenes around him — in New Zealand, and then Japan after its coast was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami.

McNulty continued traveling through Asia, eventually arriving in Tahiti in time to join a two-week field study course in marine biology that he’d heard about. The course just happened to be led by UA biology professors Dr. Richard Londraville and Dr. Peter Niewiarowski. After talking with them and learning about the program at UA, McNulty says he knew where he belonged — and it was time to go home.

New direction

“Being able to take pretty pictures is nice, but there is not a lot of depth to it,” notes McNulty. “When I was in New Zealand and Japan, I could take photos of what was happening and bear witness, but I couldn’t help anyone who was injured. I wanted to change that.”

Now he’s about to receive a biology degree with a pre-med concentration, magna cum laude. McNulty has been chosen to speak on behalf of the Spring Class of 2014 as the student responder at the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10, at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.

Those in attendance will hear about his serendipitous route to finding the right career for him, and the “guiding hand” that led him to it.

When the Hoover High School graduate first started college at The Ohio State University, the experience was “a dismal failure — I sailed through high school without studying, but college was different,” he admits with a wry smile.

McNulty did much better when he enrolled at Hocking College and earned an Associate of Applied Science in Ecotourism and Adventure Travel. He built a career as a wildlife photographer and started the Saxton Gallery in Canton. He alternated his work time with classes in New Zealand.

By the time he arrived on the UA campus, he was ready to focus on his studies and undergraduate research.

Committed scholar

“At UA, his work in my lab on how leptin affects bone density was significant enough to be mentioned in one of our recent publications,” says Londraville. “Stephen would not hesitate to travel — literally around the world — if it meant he could learn something, and that's a great quality in any scholar.”

“I’ve been very happy here,” says McNulty. “I think they are the greatest faculty on earth – they are why I stayed. They are outstanding teachers — teaching is important to them. They’re honest, engaged, and they care about student success.”

At UA, McNulty also was a Choose Ohio First STEM Scholarship recipient, earned a second place award in Undergraduate Biology Research in 2013, and was active in such organizations as Golden Key International Honor Society and Phi Delta Epsilon Medical Fraternity. Through the fraternity, he volunteered time at Akron Children’s Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit.

McNulty will take the Medical College Admission Test this summer, and try to get as much clinical experience as possible prior to starting medical school next fall. He’s interested in primary care, or maternal-fetal medicine.

“Medicine was not an easy decision — it’s a huge thing — it’s almost arrogant of me to think I could do that,” admits McNulty.”I didn’t tell anyone for a long time. What if I failed? But I had one affirmative experience build on another, and solidify into me coming to the decision that I can really do this.

“Through my travels, I have taken on challenges and learned not to back down or give up,” notes McNulty. “Still, you don’t always succeed in the way you expect. I’ve come to recognize that what looks like failure can be a guiding hand pointing you in another direction.”

Stephen McNulty

Stephen McNulty