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Tucson veteran, pararescueman and medical student earns Pat Tillman Scholarship

One of 60 lucky people inducted into 2023's program
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Posted at 9:13 PM, Jul 25, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucsonan Alex Hilser, 31, is a pararescueman, second-year medical student and now Tillman Scholar.

He was one of 60 lucky people inducted into the 2023 Pat Tillman Scholarship Program.

Hilser said he knew at a young age he was meant to serve others.

"I just grew up with all of these stories of these service members that have done great things in their lives and I always felt compelled to also join and give…give my sense of purpose to the military,” Hilser shared.

He hit pause on becoming a doctor to join the air force after finishing his bachelor's degree in 2014.

"I heard about para-rescue. I found out there was an opportunity to jump out of airplanes and do medicine and literally - immediately sold,” Hisler explained.

He would go to Djibouti and Afghanistan as a rescue team medic, fueling his devotion to helping others.

To recognize his service, The Pat Tillman Foundation recently awarded Hilser one of 60 spots in the 2023 Tillman Scholars Program. The program honors military service members and their spouses who also have a passion for education.

When he found out he was accepted into the program, Hilser said, "I was smiling ear to ear. It was a fantastic experience to hear that the foundation thought that I was worthy enough to join this group of individuals who are just crushing it in life and in making great impacts in the community."

After 6 years in the military, Hilser moved to the air force reserve, and started medical school at the University of Arizona to study emergency medicine. He hopes to help improve the healthcare system from the inside out.

“If I can get to the patients first, if I can make sure that their first introduction to the healthcare system is positive, and really help to treat them, and how I can make bigger impacts from the moment they’re sick or injured,” he said.

Hilser says he understands the importance of his new role as a Tillman Scholar.

“I earned this now, but it’s something I need to continue earning every single day and keep being worthy of this opportunity,” he added.

Mikenzie Hammel joined the KGUN 9 team as a multimedia journalist in the summer of 2023. She graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. With her passion for human connection and visual storytelling, Mikenzie is honored to share the stories of Tucson and southeastern Arizona. Share your story ideas and important issues with Mikenzie by emailing mikenzie.hammel@kgun9.com.