Awarding excellence
Col. Michael Deaton, Keller Army Community Hospital commander, presented Firstie A.J. Pisano with the Richard M. Mason Memorial Award May 11, which honors the cadet with the highest grade point average who is entering medical school. The future Medical Corps officer will be graduating West Point Saturday and continue his education at the School of Medicine at Georgetown University.

WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 20, 2010) -- Having taken his share of bumps and bruises as a member of the West Point Boxing Team, Class of 2010 Cadet A.J. Pisano is no stranger to Keller Army Community Hospital. But instead of receiving treatment, his last visit there yielded something even better.

Col. Michael Deaton, KACH commander, presented Pisano with the Richard M. Mason Memorial Award May 11. The award honors the cadet with the highest grade point average who is entering medical school.

"He's kind of a multi-faceted young man," Deaton said. "He was a walk-on pitcher for the baseball team when he was a plebe, and just this last year he won the heavyweight title at the Brigade Boxing Open. Beyond his athletic and academic abilities ... he's got a spiritual side to him. He spent a month hiking around India, spent some time with patients at Mother Theresa's facility and in the process, got to meet the Dalai Lama. A.J. is a remarkable young man and I've had the pleasure of knowing him since last fall when he was interviewing for medical school. I've been tremendously impressed with him."

After graduation Saturday, the future Medical Corps officer will soon return to the classroom, as he pursues his medical degree at the School of Medicine at Georgetown University. Transitioning from the military academy to medical school won't be difficult for Pisano.

"West Point has given me some good tools and has molded me into who I am today," Pisano said. "I know I've got the discipline and can work hard and reach my goals. Coming from high school, I was kind of a slacker, but after West Point, I know I can do it."

Pisano, a member of the three-time national championship West Point Boxing Team, finished his competitive boxing career with the heavyweight title at the Brigade Boxing Open in February. Trading in his boxing gloves for surgical gloves was an easy choice for the 22-year-old Life Sciences major.

"I've always, even before I came here, had the idea of becoming a doctor," Pisano said. "I like the idea of healing Soldiers. I think it could be a meaningful career."

The Miami native said boxing was influential in his development as a future officer.

"I think you learn a lot about yourself in the ring," Pisano said. "You also learn how to overcome challenges, work hard toward a goal and deal with stress. When I trained last year for regionals and nationals, I had two-a-day practices, cutting weight, running 3-5 miles a day. Just knowing your body can deal with that builds some mental toughness, and knowing that you can get into the ring with someone who's trying to punch you in the face."

The Mason Award is named for U.S. Military Academy Class of 1968 graduate Richard Mason.
Following his graduation, Mason served several highly decorated tours in Vietnam. Upon redeployment, he entered medical school, serving his medical residency and internship in Internal Medicine at Letterman Army Medical Center. Mason died of cancer in 1977 at the age of 30. His parents established the award in his honor.

Upon receiving the commander's coin and award plaque, Pisano thanked the medical personnel in attendance at Keller.

"I'm just glad I'll no longer be on the receiving end of the knife, as I'll be joining you guys pretty soon," he joked.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16