Paralympian and first-year PA student gears up for Tokyo 2020

First-year students transitioning into the School of Health Professions at Baylor College of Medicine must master time management. This could include settling into a new city, extracurricular activities, staying fit and finding time for classes and studying. For Raymond Martin, it is a little different as he prepares to compete in his third Paralympic Games.

The challenge that awaits him is not just to get ready for a world stage, but to juggle it with being a physician assistant student.

Originally from New Jersey, Martin first started wheelchair racing when he was 5 years old

“I have a congenital disability, so I’ve been using a wheelchair since I was young,” he said. “It was more amateur level at that age, a leisure activity. At school, I was picked out by a gym teacher that noticed I was quite active; she asked if I wanted to start in track and field, and here we are.”

At 16 years of age, he began to make track and field more than just a fun activity.

Raymond Martin
Raymond Martin

“Around 2010 and 2011, I started to get more serious about it. The London 2012 Paralympic Games were coming up, and I stepped up my training. It wasn’t for leisure anymore; it was a focused program. I was working out maybe five to six times a week.”

The training paid off as he left with four gold medals from London, competing in the 100-, 200-, 400-, and 800-meter races. This became a solidifying moment for the Paralympian.

“That is when I turned professional. I came out with four medals from those Games, and that really set the stage for the rest of my career.”

“I was 18 at my first Paralympic Games, and I didn’t know what to expect. You hear about how grandiose the Games are, and they are! It feels surreal. It’s just this indescribable feeling to really put into words,” said Martin. “In London 2012, every session was sold out. That stadium sat 80,000 people and it was so loud. Once it is time for your event and you come out, you can’t hear anything. There are deafening cheers, it is something else. I had not experienced anything like that.”

Since 2012, this Paralympian has competed and represented the United States in various world championships while collecting a slew of awards. This includes the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where he won two gold medals, along with a silver. Now, his eyes are set on the Games in Tokyo, while also focusing on the Physician Assistant Program at Baylor College of Medicine.

Martin credits his desire to help people as the major reason he chose to pursue a career as a physician assistant.

“I knew that I wanted to work in the health professions, I just didn’t know what setting I would like. Then, I found out about the physician assistant career around 2015. Since then, everything in my academic life has been to work toward getting to physician assistant school.”

Raymond Martin

Just like competing on a global stage, Martin felt jitters and excitement when picking Baylor as his choice for schooling.

“I applied for Baylor in the last application cycle. It’s one of those schools that has a lot of prestige and is well known for being one of the top programs in the country. I thought it was an out of reach school for me. Once I got the interview and got picked for the program, it felt great. I was elated!”

Although he has just commenced his physician assistant studies, Martin has dived right into it.

“Everyone here has been great and accommodating. We’ve been in school for a few weeks and the amount of information that you learn in a short amount of time is hard to believe. At times, you think it is way too much information and there is no way you will remember it all. Then, when you start studying together and testing each other, you remember the stuff, and it’s a little bit mind blowing.”

Now, he is working to juggle all the demands of physician assistant school while preparing for the Games in August.

“It’s tough when you have 24 hours in a day, and you have to fit so many things in. I usually try to get up early, around 6 a.m. or so to train. When the weather does not cooperate, I’m forced to wait until after class, which is tough, because we are in class basically from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Sometimes after eight hours, it’s tough, but I convince myself to go to a track, a park outdoors, to go to the gym, all while trying to stay rested. Ideally, I try to fit everything by getting up early or having to cut into my afterschool studying time, which is fine.”

Typically, a training session for Martin would consist of aerobic exercises on the track or the road six to seven times a week. Weightlifting in the gym takes place at least twice a week. Physician assistant school also is time demanding. Despite this, Martin displays confidence and is working to balance the life of a Paralympian and student.

“Its an honor to have Ray in our class not only as a Paralympian, but also as a remarkable human being,” said Elizabeth Elliott, program director for the Physician Assistant Program at Baylor. “He has displayed so much resilience and dedication throughout his academic and athletic career to arrive at this point. We know he will make his mark on the Baylor community as both a student and alumnus, and we are excited to cheer him on from back home as he competes in Tokyo.”                

In Tokyo, he will be competing in the 100-, 400-, and 1500-meter races. As he sports his Team USA gear and prepares to give it his all on the track, one thing is certain: Raymond Martin has the support of the Baylor community and an entire nation.

By Armand Viscarri