PhD Student Emily Balog Receives Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship

Emily Balog posing for a portrait

First-year George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences PhD student Emily Balog recently received the Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship.

The Tillman Scholar Program is an academic support initiative for military service members and their spouses established in honor of legendary NFL all-star Pat Tillman, who set aside his football career to become a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and later died in combat in Afghanistan. To date, the Tillman Scholar Program has granted $15 million in scholarships to 525 veterans attending more than 100 universities across the country.

“I’ve always had a passion for service, community, and teaching,” said Balog, a Translational Health Sciences student who served for six years in the United States Air Force.

During her service, she attended Thomas Jefferson University’s BS/MS program and graduated as an occupational therapist specializing in geriatrics, a profession that has become her passion.

Since leaving the Air Force, Balog has volunteered her time to veteran organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, where she witnessed the challenges and needs of older veterans and the importance of their continued community involvement. She also began teaching as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy at her alma mater.

While seeking advice and strategies for career advancement, Balog’s mentor encouraged her to consider the GW Translational Health Sciences PhD program. It sounded like the perfect fit, however, Balog was concerned about the travel required and how it would impact her family. Fortunately, the mostly virtual class format with only bimonthly in-person meetings made studying from her New Jersey home accessible.

Faced with her own undergraduate loans and saving for her own children’s education, Balog needed to secure financial aid to make the doctoral program work. That’s when she discovered the Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship. The program supports 60 active-duty service members, veterans, and their spouses with academic scholarships, a national network, and professional development opportunities that empower them to make an impact.

“I knew about Pat Tillman and his incredible sacrifice,” she said. “But, applying for the scholarship allowed me to learn so much more about him.”

The application process for both the scholarship and PhD program turned out to be very personal for Balog.

She had spent much of her time over the last few years with her mother, a nurse, who died one year after being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer.

“My mom was an exemplary role model to me,” she said. “She was always volunteering to help a friend or gently giving back to the hospital in her off time by reading to and pampering her patients while fiercely empowering the nurses who worked beside her.”

The experience enabled Balog “to connect to life experiences in a way I had not done before,” she said.

“It was very healing. It allowed me to reflect on my mom and how I am still learning from her even in death. It also allowed me to pay homage to Pat Tillman because that is what the scholarship is about. Carrying on his legacy of humble leadership and a passion to be the best wherever you are called to do so.”

Learn more about the Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarship

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