KAILUA, HI — Unquestionably, sports matter. They fill a void, unite people and they are a substantial source of release and exercise. However, in the grand scheme of things, sports do not compare to serving our country and potentially saving people’s lives.
For Meadville native Kyle Luben, the identity for most of his life was as a student-athlete. Rightfully so as Luben was a member of three District 10 titles, two regional team titles, and made two appearances in states with the Meadville Bulldogs golf program. However, wrestling was his best sport in high school, collecting 108 wins, becoming a District 10 champion as a senior in class AAA, making it to the Northwestern Regionals four times, and ending his wrestling career with an appearance in states in 2016 as a senior.
Luben, for a time, was considering wrestling in college with Gannon University being the school he ultimately decided on regardless of his status with wrestling. Eventually, he left wrestling in high school, but his journey in athletics did not stop there. In fact, he would take part in a familiar sport with the Golden Knights for four years after he earned a spot on the men’s golf team as a walk-on his freshman year.
From there, Luben would earn a partial scholarship, became a PSAC Scholar-Athlete in all eight semesters, became a Dean’s List student in all eight semesters, became an inductee into the Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society and graduated Summa Cum Laude.
“I give so much credit to the discipline I learned from the sport of wrestling,” said Luben on what aided in helping to make him a successful student-athlete. “That gritty lifestyle showed me you get what you work for.”
What Luben has worked for, he has gotten in many facets of his life. He became a physician assistant (PA-C) during the summer of 2021, a feat that was especially difficult as he both studied and worked through the peak times of COVID-19. He also worked to earn an opportunity in 2019 to enter the health services collegiate program (HSCP).
The HSCP is a scholarship program created to “provide financial incentives for students in designated health care professions to complete degree/certification requirements and get a commission in the medical corps (MC), dental corps (DC), or medical service corps (MSC),” according to the United States Navy.
As a result, Luben enlisted as petty officer first class, but later commissioned in the United States Navy, beginning in 2021, after he completed his schooling at Gannon. The scholarship helped him to finish his education to become a physician assistant, but the Navy, that is helping him to serve those on his base, the United States, and to explore the world.
“There is not exactly one thing I can point to why I did this,” explained Luben. “Some of it had to do with wanting to travel and wanting to see the world. I was really looking for a change, and this opportunity has really opened my eyes to what is out there in the world.”
Over the last seven months, Luben has been in Newport, Rhode Island, Maryland, and most recently, Hawaii, where he currently serves as a Lieutenant Junior Grade and also a physician assistant at Marine Corps Base Hawaii — Kaneohe Bay. In his role, he is in charge of active duty service members and dependents to help make sure marines and sailors are operational and mission ready.
“I think the first time I knew I wanted to PA-C that I can remember was in the eighth grade,” Luben said. “I’ve always been drawn to and been interested in medicine and really cared about people. I consider myself a compassionate person and truly care about giving my patients the best care possible.”
While his duties as a health care provider and member of the armed forces keep him busy, he has enjoyed some of what Hawaii offers since moving there in September 2021. He’s got out on the golf course as a part of some Veterans Golfers Association (VGA) events, experienced some of the Ko’olau Mountain Range, and has soaked up the sun at the beach.
Hawaii may be home for now, but if things go as planned, he hopes to experience Europe while serving our country and continuing his career in healthcare in the future. Also on his mind in the future is also the opportunity to apply to become an orthopedic fellow through the United States Navy. Each year, there are only around a handful of applicants that are accepted, but orthopedic surgery is something that has always intrigued him.
Now having been on his own for more than half of a year, Luben has a slightly changed perspective on life and the world at large. Still, he remains thankful for what growing up in Crawford County has given him, along with venturing off to Gannon University for five years. It has helped him to meet some of his closest friends, continue his athletic career, and show him the career possibilities are vast for healthcare workers.
“If someone were to have asked me two years ago what I would be doing now, I never would have thought this is what I would do as a 24-year-old from northwestern Pennsylvania. I am living happily in a place that is truly breathtaking. It is pretty unreal,” he said.