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Man to Be First Deaf Medical School Graduate in West Virginia



Written by Jared Pelletier
Last updated on March 21, 2014 @ 8:08PM
Created on March 21, 2014 @ 7:03PM

mark-leekoff-deaf-studentFriday was a big day for medical school students across the country. It was National Match Day which means thousands of aspiring doctors found out where they'll start their residency training.


Almost 27,000 medical school students nationwide found out where they'll doing their residency training once they graduate in May. Approximately 34,000 medical school seniors applied for a residency match this year which means not everyone was selected. Fortunately for students at the WVU School of Medicine all 78 seniors ended up with a match.


"I'm really excited. It's good to see, mostly for my classmates, where everybody matches," said WVU medical student Ali Hajiran.


There's one student in particular who has overcome a major obstacle in his life to pursue his passion of treating the sick and injured. His name is Mark Leekoff and he's from Virginia. When he gradates from WVU School of Medicine he will become the first medical school graduate in West Virginia who is deaf.


"I've overcome a lot in my life and this is the culmination of all the experiences," said Leekoff.


WVU School of Medicine administrators are saying Leekoff's story is inspiring.


Dr. Hannah Hazard is the WVU School of Medicine Assistant Dean. She said, "Anybody that overcomes what would traditionally be considered an adversity towards our profession such as this is always an incredible story."


When he was three years old Leekoff was one of the first kids in the United States to receive a cochlear implant. Before he received the implant he was completely deaf. To this day he claims he remembers the first time he was able to hear the world around him.


"I thought I was hearing static from the TV. It was just really loud and I remember yelling at my mom to take it off," said Leekoff.


Debbie Leekoff was all smiles on Friday as her son prepared to find out where his residency would take place. While reflecting on the first time her son was able to hear she said, "It was music to my ears if you will because he heard. This is the most amazing day ever. Mark has exceeded every expectation."


Leekoff and his family members are saying it hasn't been easy. Years of speech therapy and performing surgery with limited hearing have all presented challenges, but Leekoff's condition hasn't prevented him from achieving his dream. His condition is also the primary reason why he wanted to become a doctor in the first place.


As he continues his journey Leekoff hopes other people will hear his story and learn to never give up. He said, "When I see patients, especially in neurology when people have debilitating diseases, I am the hope for them."


Leekoff will be heading to the University of Maryland for Neurology.