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Ty Phillips, an aspiring doctor majoring in biology and philosophy, says he "loves all sciences, all sorts of knowledge." (Kevin Morley, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

Class of 2024: Ty Phillips brings a philosophical approach to his VCU years, medical hopes and life in general

As a double-major student, EMT and aspiring doctor, he embraces his natural curiosity and commitment to community.

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Ty Phillips doesn’t have a lot of free time. When the Virginia Commonwealth University student isn’t busy in the classroom, working as treasurer of the Philosophy Club or serving as preceptor for his genetics lab class, he can often be found aboard an ambulance as an emergency medical technician. And while Phillips is certainly busy, he’s also never bored.

“I’m a naturally very curious person,” said Phillips, who will graduate from VCU in May with degrees in biology and philosophy. “I don’t think there’s anything I’m not interested in.”

That curiosity helped lead Phillips from his original major – chemical engineering – to his current pre-medicine track by way of the Department of Biology and Department of Philosophy in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

“I love all sciences, all sorts of knowledge,” he said. “Philosophy has really just been my capstone and my main focus recently just because it’s learning about thinking and knowledge.”

As an aspiring doctor, the Richmond native began serving with his local rescue squad to get more experience that aligned with his career goals. Though there are some emergency calls one might expect – such as cardiac arrests and strokes – many engagements are more low-key. For Phillips, the most meaningful part of the job is meeting people across the community and getting the chance to make someone’s day better.

“It feels like, especially nowadays, we are so isolated from everyone else,” he said. “You know, we’re in our own little world, and maybe you know 10 people personally and then everyone else is just a profile on Snapchat or Instagram. But [in the ambulance], you’re going out, being a member of the community, seeing a lot of people and getting to be a public servant.”

Phillips noted that his desire to serve others has always been a part of him, but it began to really flourish at VCU.

“A lot of people live their lives trying to find what their purpose is, and that’s not really something I had before,” he said. “When I came to VCU, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, and it was philosophy that really showed me the purpose and what really set me on the pre-med track. It was learning about values in the world and – after that moment, taking my first ethics class – realizing that there’s stuff that’s important in the world, things matter, and it’s something I want to help.”

After graduation in May, Phillips intends to take a gap year or two, building his résumé and spending some time away from the classroom before he embarks on the long years of medical school. He plans to continue working with the rescue squad and taking on more responsibility, as well as potentially do some writing. In May, he also will begin working in cardio-oncology through a laboratory at VCU’s Pauley Heart Center.

With graduation bringing big changes, Phillips is taking a philosophical approach to the adjustment.

“Endings are always sad,” he said. “There’s so many amazing departments and professors here. They’ve just been such great people to me and helped me learn so much, so it’s scary to leave that. But I always think, everything ends but everything begins again, too, and that’s always happy. So be happy.”