Called to Serve: Two Former West Point Defenders Set for Medical School


Taylor Miller (bottom row, right) and Malina Hatton (second row, second from left) were accepted into the West Point Pre-Medical School Scholarship.

Army made history in 2023. The list of firsts for the Black Knights is long: A national ranking, a top-10 win (Rutgers), a Patriot League championship game berth and an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Army’s 15 victories? Also, a new program benchmark.

This summer, former Black Knights defenders Taylor Miller and Malina Hatton will make history when they begin medical school as part of the West Point Pre-Medical School Scholarship Program. Miller and Hatton are the first Army women’s lacrosse players to make it into the exclusive program, which accepts up to 2 percent of qualified applicants from each class.

Accepted cadets go on to medical school after graduating instead of five years of military service. Miller is headed to the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Hatton has chosen to attend Harvard Medical School. Oh, and a quick aside: Attacker Margaret Williams was selected as a Rhodes Scholar in November.

“This senior class is going to go down as one of the most successful,” head coach Michelle Tumolo said. “We have a Rhodes Scholar and two Ivy League medical school students. It shows younger players that you can do it … It’s competitive, and you have to be at the top of your class. But the fact that two Division I athletes are able to balance that shows it’s possible.”

As part of the Pre-Medical School Scholarship Program, the U.S. government pays medical school tuition, which can cost more than $250,000 in total. But it’s not free: Selected students serve in the military for at least nine years after completing the medical school program compared to the five-year requirement of a typical cadet. If anything, that made Miller more interested in the program.

“I knew I wanted to do something in service to others,” Miller said. “West Point was the perfect storm for me.”

An imperfect storm inspired Hatton’s love of medicine. The San Jose, Calif., native always loved science and was intrigued by the human body.

“Even in pre-school, I remember this basic human psychology book was my favorite thing growing up,” said Hatton, who played in 18 games and made 14 starts at defense in 2023.

Lacrosse may have been her second favorite thing. But the train nearly derailed just as she started getting looks and attending recruiting events during her freshman year at Archbishop Mitty.

“I got injured and tore a ligament,” Hatton said. “It threw all my plans in the air.”

It also brought Hatton to Dr. Julia S. Kahan, MD, a local orthopedic surgeon who got her back on the field and was the catalyst for her choosing to pursue medicine.

“She took care of me and really asked me what my goals were, and she understood that and tailored my treatment plan towards that,” Hatton said. “She was very inspirational to me in how she was able to take her expertise and knowledge and apply it to me successfully so I could play lacrosse again in 11 months. I was very inspired by it and wanted to do that for other people.”

Both Hatton and Miller declared life sciences as their majors at the end of their freshman year, the typical pre-medical track. But the spring of their first year was anything but typical — it was 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic saw physicians nationwide called upon to serve and care for others while much of the country was asked to stay home. Miller joined the people she hopes one day will be her peers, volunteering at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland to check in patients who required a COVID-19 test result before surgery.

“It demonstrated which jobs were super valuable to everyone’s day-to-day life, even if we didn’t realize it before COVID,” Miller said. “Those essential workers demonstrated why I want to care for service members who serve our country if something happens or we end up back in war ... It’s a unique opportunity to serve those who serve our country.”

Miller is used to “unique.” She came to campus and spent the first three seasons of her college career as a goalie. But she came to Tumolo with a request before her senior season: To switch to defense.

“I was craving a challenge,” Miller said. “It demonstrated that you can learn a lot in a short amount of time. You never want to have regrets. Taking that leap was cool to prove to myself that you can learn a lot in a short amount of time.”

Miller played in four games during her senior season but played a valuable role behind the scenes, leading by example as she learned a new position in the final season of her career.

“For someone that is that confident in who they are and their abilities was inspiring,” Tumolo said.

It takes guts to request a position switch. It also takes guts to apply for a program that accepts 2 percent of qualified applicants from one of the most challenging schools to get into in the first place. While balancing the regimented life at West Point. And a Division I sport. But Miller said lacrosse played into her success.

“Lacrosse has taught me a lot,” Miller said. “It’s not just about the sport, but the lessons, team building and facing adversity. Those things are going to translate into the medical field … communicating with other people and demonstrating your passion for the field.”

That’s not to say it was a breeze. Hatton and Miller were in the trenches together, teammates in every sense of the word.

“We’d have rough weeks, and most people would take a postgame nap, but we were studying,” Miller said. “That’s the reality of it, but to be able to look one or two seats behind me and see her studying or ask her a question about a test was important … It wouldn’t have been the same without her.”

The feeling is mutual.

“Having each other and being able to lean on each other and understand our schedules and the sacrifices we were making was something that was very special to me,” Hatton said.

The two will separate as they begin medical programs at separate Ivy League schools. Hatton is leaning towards specializing in an area that involves surgery, similar to Dr. Kahan. Tumolo has yet to meet Dr. Kahan, but she already sees the drive to provide genuine patient care inside her former player.

“Malina is going to be one of those people that patients think, ‘My doctor really cares about me,’” Tumolo said. “Our team thinks the world of her because of how sweet she is. I’m excited for the patients in the army that she gets to see. It makes my heart happy to know the people will have her taking care of them.”

Tumolo shares these thoughts about Miller, adding her ability to pivot and face adversity will serve her and her patients well. Just as she did in lacrosse, Miller is keeping an open mind. Maybe she’ll pursue dermatology — or surgery or emergency medicine. She’s earned the honor of keeping her options open, something she hopes young kids see as a product of hard work and sacrifice.

“Our experience collectively really demonstrates that you don’t have to sacrifice a professional career to have an athletic career in college,” Miller said. “It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I didn’t go to bed at 9 p.m. and sleep for nine hours every night.”

But Miller would do it all over again in a heartbeat, in large part because of what she learned and the friends she made outside the classroom.

“It was a worthwhile experience,” Miller said. “It taught me a lot about myself, and I got to meet amazing people like Malina.”


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