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Why Carlos McDay is this year’s Heart of Belmont honoree

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Carlos McDay’s resume is four pages long.

From enlisting in the Navy to working as youth sports coach, he has no shortage of titles and experiences. McDay has worked as a mailman, a police officer, a Belmont lab assistant and now, a graduating biology major enrolled in school to be a physician assistant.

McDay can now add the the John Williams Heart of Belmont Award to his collection, which recognizes one upperclassman that is a selfless volunteer, innovative problem solver and persistent worker. As an advocate for justice and an altruistic member of the community, McDay embodies the Heart of Belmont with his service-focused attitude, and he has gone above and beyond for his community.

The Belmont Student Leadership Awards named McDay as the recipient of the award on April 7 and McDay credits this award to his work as a dedicaed Belmont lab assistant over the past few years.

Before coming to Belmont, McDay had a lot of experiences that formed the kind of person he would become.

The first of which was his eight years in the Navy, which he entered in 2009 right out of his Jonesboro, Georgia, high school.

“During that time, I learned basic seamanship, hospital corpsman skills, field medicine training and advanced leadership training,” he said.

McDay was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He also deployed aboard the USS Antietam in 2015 before being honorably discharged in August 2017.

While serving, McDay practiced medicine as a hospital corpsman and worked as a Sexual Assault and Prevention Response team member. Even while serving overseas, he took the time to advocate for justice and speak up for those who could not.

McDay’s time in the military impacted his work ethic, his goals for the future and especially his view on community.

“I’m a person who’s very attached to community. I think that comes from being in the Navy. You get socialized together and you’re one unit. That’s one reason I picked Belmont … I felt like I would be able to have that community support, and that’s exactly what I found,” he said.

After leaving the Navy, McDay worked as a police officer in Savannah, Georgia.

“The time I spent patrolling the city of Savannah gave me the unique opportunity to see people at their best and their worst. Observing the complexity of humans navigating everyday life taught me to find a creative way to overcome many challenging situations.”

When McDay’s interest in practicing medicine brought him to Belmont, he quickly became an important part of the university’s biology department, leading in the labs and teaching others to approach science with confidence — if students had a question about the labs, often the answer was, “just ask Carlos,” McDay said.

As he prepares to graduate from Belmont, McDay recalled fond memories of the university and credited his success to the professors he has had, those who came before him and the tight-knit community he found.

“I feel proud, but I didn’t do this on my own. I feel proud that I’ve had these professors and these other students who I’ve worked with and that I had the people who worked before me. I was able to use my military history, my life experience, all those things make me the person I am … that was my support system,” he said.

McDay will attend the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine starting in June to work on his master’s in physician assistant studies. He will have yet another lens through which to see the world, which is also the natural result of his liberal arts experience at Belmont.

“I’m not a music major, but I took music classes. I’m not a history major, but I’ve taken these classes and I feel like it has ultimately just opened my mind up to so many different things. It makes your mindset just so much more broad … you have a better understanding of the things going on in the world, how to react to those things, and then how to insert yourself in a way that’s productive to make things better or to try to give back what you get,” said McDay

“It’s all about paying it forward.”

This article was written by Margot Pierson and Anna Jackson. Photo by Margot Pierson. Updated Tuesday night.

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