Dylan Mann seeks to live his life to its fullest potential, and he’s passionate about removing health barriers for others so they can do the same. As he eagerly pursues his engineering-based medical degree at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, he is fueled by his vision to enable others–particularly kids–to live their lives to the fullest, too.

Dylan’s interest in engineering started when he was a kindergartner. Before he even had a word for engineering, he was tenacious about becoming a “robot builder.” This interest continued to mature, and after watching a 60 Minutes episode in high school, his curiosity was solidified. The episode featured an MIT professor who was using myoelectric control and nerve interface for prosthetics, allowing him to manipulate his prosthetic hand by moving the muscles in his arm. This was Dylan’s first introduction to biomedical engineering, and this excitement drove him to study this field as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa.

Dylan Mann, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dylan with a robot he built while in high school.

Dylan realized that, while he continued to enjoy engineering, he began to find that something was missing. In response, he began shadowing a neurologist, Dr. Jerath, every Friday for a semester. Dr. Jerath had a mutual interest in nerve interface technology and biomedical engineering, and Dylan discovered a new fulfillment while watching her interact with her patients. Dylan recalls a particularly rewarding experience where a patient was suffering from peripheral neuropathy, and was slowly losing the ability to manipulate her hands and feet. The patient shared that – after a year of treatment with Dr. Jerath – she was finally able to attend her grandson’s baseball games again. He remembers leaving the clinic that day, and a thought crossed his mind, “I could do this every day for the rest of my life.” This experience tipped the scale for Dylan, and medicine became his new path.

Dylan continued to live his life to its fullest potential throughout his undergraduate experience, becoming involved with as many organizations as he could. One particular experience, however, profoundly shaped his perspective and built upon his growing desire to become a physician. During the summer just after his senior year of college, Dylan volunteered with the Muscular Dystrophy Association at Camp Courageous, a summer camp for children with disabilities. The camp provided an opportunity for the kids to “live unlimited,” and it was here that Dylan captured his vision for the type of physician he hoped to become. “These children gave me hope for a future where medicine allows everyone to live life to the fullest and pursue their dreams,” Dylan said. It was here that Dylan’s vision was unleashed, and he decided to commit to doing whatever he could to remove barriers for others so they could “live unlimited,” too.

Living life to the fullest for others

After Camp Courageous, Dylan grabbed lunch with a friend who was studying computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This friend knew of Dylan’s interest in both medicine and engineering, and introduced him to the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. When he learned that his desire to apply his engineering background to medicine was possible, he knew Carle Illinois had to be the next step for him. “This is everything I didn’t know I was looking for,” Dylan said.

As Dylan moved forward with his engineering-based medical education at Carle Illinois, he could see the opportunity it would provide to problem solve for others so they, too, could “live unlimited.” “Engineers and doctors have always had the same common origin, which is that of a professional problem solver. For me, the role of engineering in medicine has always been there, we’re just making it official,” Dylan said.

“This is everything I didn’t know I was looking for.”

Now at Carle Illinois, Dylan is grateful for his time in the clinic with his preceptor, Dr. Buetow, a pediatrician. “It gives me context for everything I’ve been learning so far. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Dylan said. He also values his problem-based learning sessions, which he credits as a critical component of his learning experience. “It helps me focus and integrate the information in my head. It’s been extremely helpful in understanding what I’m learning,” Dylan said.

Dylan looks forward to his future as a physician-innovator, and he is working daily towards a future where he can remove health barriers for kids. He dreams of a time where no illness or injury prevents children from pursuing their dreams; the only barrier they have to face is themselves. “I absolutely adore working with kids. I would never regret spending my life working to help kids,” Dylan said.

Dylan is committed to working each day to this end. He said, “Success for me would be that I found myself in a position where I could make a difference in someone’s life that allows them to go on and pursue their dreams. If I can do that, for even one person, I’d say that I succeeded.”

“Success for me would be that I found myself in a position where I could make a difference in someone’s life that allows them to go on and pursue their dreams.”

The generosity of people like you made it possible for Dylan and his classmates to attend Carle Illinois with scholarships.