Samuel Potter, MD, considers himself a “lifelong Kentuckian.” He was born and raised in the Commonwealth and says he has no intentions of leaving anytime soon. The Pikeville, Ky., native grew up watching his father run a small medical practice, learning about health disparities affecting such rural areas from a young age.  

As a high school senior, Dr. Potter visited a variety of college campuses but recalls that none felt like home in the way the University of Kentucky did. Already drawn to the campus for its many opportunities, Potter’s decision was cemented when he received the prestigious Otis A. Singletary Scholarship. Singletary scholars are admitted to the Lewis Honors College and receive a full-tuition merit scholarship for four years to support “their future potential to lead lives of intellect, integrity, and service in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the world.”

Dr. Potter also participated in the Professional Education Preparation Program (PEPP) at the urging of Margaret McConnel, former PEPP program director at the UK Outreach Center for Health and Science Opportunities.

“Through my experiences working with physicians at UK HealthCare through programs like PEPP, I knew that the culture of the College of Medicine was a supportive and collegial one,” Potter said. “I also knew that I wanted to stay in Kentucky long-term and practice medicine within the state to best serve those in my own communities.”

Potter applied early decision to the College of Medicine and was accepted. During his first year, he was selected to participate in the FamTrack program under the guidance of then-Chair Wanda Gonsalves, MD, in the department of family and community medicine. FamTrack offers first-year medical students the opportunity to shadow physicians and begin practicing patient care skills much earlier than traditional third-year clerkships. “My first experience interviewing and examining patients happened during FamTrack,” said Potter. “It can be really intimidating to walk into an exam room for the first time wearing a white coat and carrying a stethoscope, but Dr. Gonsalves’ support and guidance made it all go smoothly.” 

Dr. Potter has benefitted greatly from mentor relationships over the years, crediting those previously mentioned, as well as Teresa Gevedon, MD, and Steven Johnson, PhD, LCSW, for contributing to his successes here. As a result, Dr. Potter has made a conscious effort to participate and provide mentorship whenever possible. For several years, he served as a mentor to other Singletary scholars through the Lewis Honors College. During medical school, he served as a mentor for the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Connect program and delivered an annual lecture to students in the agricultural and medical biotechnology program, his undergraduate major, focusing on preparing for professional school. 

As a chief resident in the department of psychiatry, Dr. Potter discovered his passion for clinical teaching and enjoys working alongside medical students and other residents to treat mental illnesses and reduce the stigma that surrounds them. Of course, not every medical student who works with Dr. Potter will choose to specialize in psychiatry, but he believes it is essential for all physicians-in-training, regardless of their specialty, to learn more about treating patients with mental illness. 

When asked how the College of Medicine has supported his journey, Potter shared “it's difficult to pick just one thing because all of my training has been here— my undergrad was here, my med school experience was here, my residency is here— all of my education after the twelfth grade was at the University of Kentucky. So, asking how it supported me? It was everything. It's been my entire journey— it’s been this institution.”

Though his time as a resident is soon coming to an end, Dr. Potter has no intentions of leaving Lexington. He is poised to join the department of psychiatry as an assistant professor in September 2024. His clinical responsibilities will be split between the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) at Good Samaritan Hospital and Eastern State Hospital. At both locations, he will have the ability to work extensively with medical students and residents to provide compassionate care to his patients. 

“Dr. Potter is a rising star and I am certain he will have a great impact on the clinical educational mission of the department moving forward,” said Seth Himelhoch, MD, MPH, chair of the department. 

“Working here will help me fulfill my own goals of treating and serving my fellow Kentuckians, all while training future physicians to do the same,” shares Dr. Potter, reflecting on his upcoming appointment. “It has been an honor and privilege to receive all of the experience, training, and support that I have received during my time here, and I hope to pass as much of that as I can to the next generation training here.”  

Dr. Potter is not the only Wildcat in his family. His sister, Rachel Potter, MD, also attended the University of Kentucky for her undergraduate studies and played for the women’s basketball team during that time. Following in her brother’s footsteps, Dr. Potter attended the UK College of Medicine and is now two years into her internal medicine residency program at UK HealthCare.