BY KRISTIN SCHULTZ
NISKAYUNA — With a plate this full, you’d think Erik Augspurger would be pursuing a culinary degree, but this Niskayuna High School graduate has his sights set on medical school and a career in sports medicine. His path to achieving his dream has taken him from the classroom to the hockey rink to the firetruck, and he’s grateful for the lessons he’s learned along the way.
Augspurger graduated this spring from the University at Albany, where he studied and worked in a research lab. He also volunteers at St. Peter’s Hospital and is an active volunteer member of Niskayuna Fire District No. 2. He is currently applying to medical school and studying for the admission tests.
Augspurger, 24, graduated from high school in 2010, and instead of heading to a prestigious institution of higher learning alongside his classmates, he decided to follow his passion. He grabbed his pads and skates, and spent the next three years playing junior hockey.
“I got to experience different cultures,” said Augspurger, whose teammates hailed from Finland, Russia, Sweden, Latvia and Canada. A Canadian teammate turned him on to the wonders of poutine, and he remains friends with fellow player Vitaliy Zatsepilin from Russia.
After back-to-back shoulder injuries, Augspurger decided to leave Portland, Maine, where he played for the Junior Pirates, and come home.
He joined Niskayuna Fire District No. 2 and enrolled at the University at Albany.
“I wanted to stay close to home so I could volunteer,” he said.
He was accepted into the premed program and graduated this past spring, receiving the Outstanding Senior Award.
Also during his time at UAlbany, Augspurger worked at The RNA Institute, working on biomarker detection for cancer using gold nanoparticles.
Augspurger is now aiming for med school, after which he would like to work with sports teams. “I’ve always been interested in science and figuring out how the body works,” he said.
He said it all came together for him in his early teens, when he realized his love of science and sports could actually be a career. After shoulder surgery during his hockey playing years, he became resolved to make it happen.
“My injury added fuel to the fire to what I wanted to do,” he said.
When he enters med school, Augspurger will bring with him a variety of experiences he knows will be beneficial to both his studies and his future career.
As a volunteer firefighter and EMT, he has seen trauma up close and gained valuable experience with patients.
Many times he goes on calls to a memory care facility where patients have trouble speaking, and he’s learned how to communicate and manage the situation.
He has seen a variety of patients, from the elderly to an infant.
“In my four years here, I’ve gone on a wide array of medical and fire calls,” Augspurger said. “It’s good to broaden my views.”
Augspurger was named the June firefighter of the month. He also volunteers at St. Peter’s Hospital in the orthopedic wing, working with mostly postoperative patients.
“With the [fire district position], we’re the first ones there and our job is to secure the situation,” he said. “At St. Peter’s it’s the opposite of the EMT.”
Augspurger is applying to a number of medical schools, some close by and others farther away.
Wherever he goes, Augspurger will take a diverse set of real-world experiences that have shaped and prepared him for the road ahead.