Medical student dreams of returning and serving

by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor

It’s been the road less traveled for Emily (Estep) Ptasnik.

Emily was one of the most decorated students/athletes to ever graduate from Onaway High School (OHS) with many varsity letters and all-state honors.

Among her greatest sports’ moments was pitching the Lady Cardinals’ softball team to a state title game. Her name is on the big red, 2010 state runner-up banner, in the northwest corner of the gym.

More importantly, during four years at her hometown high school, she was at the top of her class, earning co-valedictorian (perfect grade point average of 4.00) honors in 2013 before moving on to Lake Superior State University (LSSU) to continue softball and her studies.

Again, she shined, especially in the classroom, graduating from LSSU, summa cum laude in 2017. She was named the most outstanding graduate from the School of Biological Sciences and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. She also was captain of the softball team and helped start a club softball program when LSSU pulled the rug from the program prior to Emily’s senior year.

Emily (Estep) Ptasnik.

“I was accepted to Michigan State University (MSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine the fall of 2016 and was starting classes in Lansing a month after graduation from LSSU,” said Emily.

Emily has another year-and-a-half of medical school remaining before graduating with her doctorate in osteopathic medicine.

“My goal is to return to northern Michigan and serve my community though my medical career by providing extraordinary care to this underserved area,” said Emily, who is the daughter of Dean and Joey Estep of Onaway.

“She has always made us proud and she continues to do so even as an adult,” said Joey. “She works so hard and is so focused and I’m so thankful that she plans to return to the area to practice when she is finished with medical school.”

By the time Emily starts searching for that first job, she will be 30, one of the drawbacks, along with the student debt that can accumulate to $200,000 to $300,000.

At the moment, she lives in Cheboygan with her husband, Alex Ptasnik, helping to run a cattle farm when she is around.

“We met on a blind date, thanks to my sister, my sophomore year in college and were married in May 2017,” said Emily. The marriage took place two weeks after she graduated from LSSU and two weeks before starting medical school at MSU.

“Alex is an incredible husband,” she said. “I live away during the week and we take turns traveling to each other on the weekends.

“He has supported my dream of becoming a physician from the very beginning even if it has meant seeing his wife two days a week, sometimes not even that.”

She is currently based in Traverse City through Munson Medical Center to finish her clerkship training.

“I am still undecided on what medical specialty I will choose, and am enjoying the time I get to spend exploring my different options,” said Emily. “I will graduate in May of 2021 and then have to complete a residency training program in the specialty that I choose.” 

“She has been hitting it out of the park,” said OHS secondary principal/former coach and teacher Marty Mix. She told Mix in fifth-grade she wanted to be a doctor.

What drives Emily?

“First of all, I am only able to do this because

of the support I receive from my husband, my parents, the rest of my family and friends and the work ethic that was instilled in me though my young athletic and academic career at OHS. And to be completely honest, I am driven to get back to where I came from.

“Having come from such a small town and being easily recognized as brick mouse, that tiny little pitcher from Onaway to now being one of 300 in my medical school class and building a new identity for myself as ‘student doctor Ptasnik’ has brought about its challenges and stretched me to the boundaries of my comfort zone,” said Emily.