Taylor Wright officially knew that he wanted to be doctor when he saw two surgeons jump out of their seats on a plane to save a passenger having a heart attack.
“I remember leaving the plane, it was an emergency landing, and his family was so thankful,” he said. “They literally just saved this guy’s life; just thinking about the impact that they had on the rest of his kids and his wife’s life.”
Wright will be the second public health pre-med student body president in a row, following in the steps of current Student Body President Ross Lordo. That’s not a coincidence, according to Wright.
“I think there's a lot of parallels between public health and what I’m doing here,” he said. “It’s all about helping people. It’s about diagnosing issues and finding out solutions and getting treatments or fixing things.”
Wright was exposed to medicine at an early age, often playing in the doctor’s lounge while his mother was at work as a hospital administrator. With his sister working as a pharmacist and close family friends also in the medical field, Wright grew up passionate about health.
He first discovered his second passion in high school when the vice principal of his school — Northwood Academy near Charleston — urged him to run for president of his junior class. While the class was just 40 students, Wright realized for the first time the power of public office.
“It literally kind of meant nothing, but just the principle of it,” he said. “People actually believed in me.”
His mom carries the same faith in her son. While Wright told her not to come to Columbia for the result announcement because he anticipated a run-off, he called her after the crowds dispersed.
“She was screaming, I think she started crying,” he said. “She was like, ‘I knew I should have come.’”
His whole family will come to his inauguration April 4, though. All of his family lives in Charleston, but Wright has remained close to them while away at USC.
“They have gone through so much,” he said. “My mom and dad came from so little and they worked so hard to provide how. Now, I have to work hard to make sure everything is worth it."
Wright is in a class on race relations in the 1960s and empathizes with the message that African-Americans have to work harder for success. He remembered a conversation he had with Chief Diversity Officer John Dozier: “’So many people worked so hard for you not to be here,’” Wright recollected Dozier saying. “This opportunity is something that so many people in the South and in this nation didn’t want anybody like me to have.”
Wright will be meeting with campus leaders like Lordo and Vice President of Student Life Anna Edwards in the upcoming days to discuss how he’ll take advantage of the opportunity in front of him. And maybe at some point, he’ll get some sleep after weeks of three to four hours a night. The lack of sleep is worth it, he said.