First-year medical student Chloe Obert is disciplined. She enjoys structure and does not shy away from a challenge. It is why becoming a doctor was a natural career path. But Obert’s road to medicine was nontraditional. When searching for the right undergraduate degree, she felt called to another passion – ballet.

Obert earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ballet performance from Butler University. It is not the typical degree program – like biology, neuroscience, or biomedical science – pursued by the majority of her peers in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine Class of 2027. 

Then again, ballet provided Obert the structure that helped her thrive. “I really liked the aspect where you are trying to improve upon what you were able to put forth the day before. You're really not competing with other people so much in ballet,” Obert said. “It's really a competition with yourself and striving to keep that motivation and keep improving even if you're injured or things get difficult.”

Obert started ballet at 3 years old, initially as a chance to hang out with her best friend. Over time, her friends lost interest, but Obert stuck with it. She practiced up to 35 hours per week. After undergraduate training, she even spent time with a professional ballet company in Nashville, Tenn. Then, more quickly than she could have anticipated, she suffered a career-ending injury to her back, retiring at 23 years old. 

“As a career, ballet comes with an expiration date,” Obert said. Performing ballet, she said, can be physically taxing, and many opt to teach or choreograph after a certain number of years invested in the intense routine.  Her injury prompted her to begin thinking about her other dream, the dream to pursue medical school. Ballet may have been sidelined, but she saw medicine as a career that could provide lasting fulfillment.

She moved back to Lexington, Ky., in 2015 and started taking prerequisite classes. By the summer of 2023, she was enrolled at the UK College of Medicine. Obert said she is excited to incorporate her arts background into her next career venture, but she misses ballet. 

“I did it for 20 years in total. It was a really nice outlet for artistic and emotional expression,” she said. “You don't have to verbalize how you feel. But you can work yourself pretty hard and get a really good workout if you're really dead set on pushing yourself.” 

But medical school is already providing her with the challenge she needs, along with a different perspective. “I’m pretty gung-ho on the next step,” she said.