Lifelong friends prepare to go to med school together

By the time life-long friends Isaac Johnston and Jeff Cotter are finished with medical school, they will have spent 21 straight years in school together.

"And that's not even including our residencies," Cotter said.

Johnston, 21, and Cotter, 23, are seniors at Newman University and scheduled to graduate in May. In the fall, they will move to Kansas City, Kan., to attend the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Johnston's smile is quick and frequent. Cotter lets Johnston do more of the talking.

"If Jeff hadn't been accepted to med school this year, I probably would have waited for him," Johnston said.

The two have been friends since they attended second grade together at St. Francis of Assisi School in west Wichita. They went through eighth grade at St. Francis and attended Bishop Carroll High School together.

When asked why they appear to be two years apart and in the same school grade, Johnston likes to joke that Cotter failed finger-painting in kindergarten. Really, though, Cotter had an early birthday, meaning he was often the oldest in his class.

Throughout high school, they were involved in community service activities, even helping to raise $10,000 their senior year to travel to Panama, where they participated in building projects for those in need.

They dream of becoming doctors and eventually having a family practice.

"I want to be able to see all types of cases and a variety of people," Johnston said.

They earned the same academic scholarship that enabled them to attend Newman. One contingency for college freshmen was living on campus, where they became roommates. Later, they became counselors for other residents.

During their years at Newman, Johnston and Cotter have been involved in making the university's first online video, serving Mass, forming their own men's basketball team through the YMCA and participating in a Piano Battle benefiting the United Way.

"We're both pretty much the same about being involved," Johnston said. "I'm like, 'Sure, why not say yes to everything?' "

In the fall, the two will reprise their roles as roommates when they share a house or an apartment in Kansas City.

"KU was the only choice," Cotter said, the blue and red colors of the university displayed on a foot cast he has been wearing from a basketball injury.

For Johnston, volunteering at care homes helped him to realize how much he wants to help people, especially the elderly. Eventually, he would like to be involved in hospice.

For Cotter, family members with a background in health care, a disabled uncle and nine years as a volunteer helping kids with disabilities made him realize he would like to eventually focus on working with disabled people.

While their individual medical interests vary, they are determined to one day have families, including children.

"And we both want to end up practicing in or around Wichita," Cotter said.

"Who knows?" Johnston said with a smile. "Maybe we'll end up in the same practice."