Henderson, Nevada dermatologist Dr. Curt Samlaska grew up in Madelia, a “small, one-horse town in southern Minnesota,” a population of about 2,500. He was born the fifth child in a family with nine children and was “dead smack in the middle, in the safe zone.”
After graduating from Madelia High School in 1973, he attended Mankato State University. Dr. Samlaska graduated summa cum laude in 1978; he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and one in Chemistry.
From there, Dr. Samlaska pursued his goal to become a doctor; he studied at the University of Minnesota Medical School (UMN) until 1982.
Dr. Samlaska was about halfway through paying his way through medical school when he realized that he had a lot of debt. At the time, one of his friends pursued medicine too; he was in the Health Professions Scholarship Program which offers help to prospective military physicians.
One day, Dr. Samlaska listened to his friend talk about how great life was because all of his stuff was taken care of—he had a stipend, all his books were paid for and everything was great. So Dr. Samlaska decided to sign up for that scholarship too.
The military paid for his last two years of medical school at UMN—which also got him into their system. When Dr. Samlaska finished, he figured that he wouldn’t be able to afford to interview anywhere; he would probably end up doing a residency program either in Minnesota or Wisconsin—but he really wanted to see the world. This was his opportunity to be trained somewhere else.
In medical school, Dr. Samlaska had a college professor who trained in Hawaii and told him how great Tripler Army Medical Center was, located above the airport in Honolulu.
As a result, Dr. Samlaska literally joined the military in order to go to Tripler.
In Pursuit of Medicine
After Dr. Samlaska graduated from medical school at UMN in 1982, he turned right around and flew to Honolulu, Hawaii to begin his internship at Tripler. The Medical Center is a referral hospital for the entire Pacific basin where staff serves veterans and military personnel from Subic Bay in the Philippines to South Korea, from the Marshall Islands all the way to Australia.
Dr. Samlaska did his internship there along with internal medicine residency; he became board certified in internal medicine. He also stayed on as Chief Resident for a year.
Being selected as Chief Resident was an honored position. Chief residents usually go on to do big things; they become intensive care doctors or gastroenterologists or infectious disease docs or something along those lines—which Dr. Samlaska entertained.
Dr. Samlaska found that he loved medicine. He’d been in Intensive Care Units running two codes at the same time; as chief resident, he was in the ER frequently for six months. He also ran morning reports even on weekends to make sure everything was taken care of.
During Samlaska’s last six months as Chief Resident he was only allowed Sundays off, but he loved hospital work and remembers it as “great, fantastic stuff.”
Click here to view Dr. Samlaska’s resume.