Donated photo. Haywood Community College and Haywood Early College graduate Tyler McKinnish is on the path to becoming a doctor. Pictured third from the left, McKinnish will spend the next four years completing a residency program.  

It is 1 a.m. and Tyler McKinnish, 2010 Haywood Community College Associate in Arts and Haywood Early College graduate, just saw three patients with abnormal electrolytes and chest pain. After assessing them, reading their EKGs and thinking through the anatomy and physiology of what could be going wrong, he started putting in medication lab orders, talking to nurses and consulting with the doctors in charge.

McKinnish is working of 13-hour night shifts six days per week at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He is working on his residency to become an OB/GYN after recently finishing UNC School of Medicine. Before that, he graduated from Western Carolina University where he received bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and environmental health. But, his higher education began at HCC.

McKinnish was a graduate of the first Haywood Early College class, a program he finished early. “I look back with appreciation for my Early College days,” he explains. “I went to college and then to med school completely ready for the challenges I would face. I took courses in both that weren't even required because I was curious to learn more about the subject, usually because I had learned the basics already at HCC. It made for a busy schedule but I think I was able to do that because I had such a good academic foundation.”

McKinnish will spend the next four years completing the residency program. “I’m really lucky to be at Washington University in St. Louis,” he says. “It’s a busy labor and delivery floor with many surgeries every day. In the first week of residency, my classmates treated pregnant women for obstetric emergencies we thought we would only ever read about. At the same time, others have started forming relationships with women in the clinic who might return to see them for years to come.”

McKinnish says that when the team he works with figures out what is wrong with patients and they start getting better, it is really satisfying. His goal is to become a physician who is knowledgeable and approachable. “I want to be seen as a caring person who is empathetic to their experience and an ally who might be able to help them live happier for longer.”

McKinnish offers advice for current students who are just now starting on their academic journey. “Students need to be committed to being the most caring and hardest working person they can be and starting now. As a resident, I am excited about the busy days because you get to use your brains and hands all day to help people.”

Registration for fall semester short-term courses is underway now for both new and continuing students. With a variety of associate, diploma, and certificate programs to choose from, students can take the first step in realizing that education changes everything. Career counseling services are available for guidance. For more information on enrollment, programs of study or financial aid, contact HCC at, 828.627.2821 or visit