Daniel Kohl-Fink came to Florida Gulf Coast University from his hometown of Weston in Broward County instilled with love for the medical profession, soccer and volunteerism.
He leaves FGCU with a degree in pre-professional biology and the valuable medical shadowing experience he got while earning it, the thrill of coaching elite-level boys soccer, and achievements in community service that earned him one of the fall semester’s two Excellence in Civic Engagement Awards, joining fellow biology major and Fort Myers resident Estelle Ayomen.
“Estelle and Daniel represent all that we hope for students as they engage in service-learning at FGCU,” said Justin Fitzgerald, director of community engagement. “Through over 800 service-learning hours each, both students found unique ways to connect their life experiences, their passions, their coursework, and their career goals to needs in the community. Their stories represent the reason service-learning remains an integral part of the FGCU experience.”
FGCU360 asked Kohl-Fink, a graduate of Cypress Bay High School on the east coast, to describe why he got involved with the organizations he did, his sources of inspiration and his hopes for the future.
FGCU360: We understand that your passion for community involvement was instilled and nurtured by your mother from childhood. Tell us about that.
KOHL-FINK: For as long as I can remember, my mom has made sure it was a priority to give back to the community. Whether that be helping in food, toy or clothes drives, we were there. Before we celebrated any holiday, we would make sure to have participated in at least one event in which we could help others make sure they could celebrate, too. My mom really helped us understand how blessed we were in life, and that we should be thankful and give back to others who have not been so fortunate.
FGCU360: Tell us about the community projects and organizations you have been involved with while attending FGCU.
KOHL-FINK: I’ve worked and volunteered with Black Watch Premier and the Lee County Strikers soccer clubs. I interned, shadowed and now currently work at an internal medicine practice (Daniel Bendetowicz M.D., P.A.), and also shadowed an ear, nose and throat specialist. I did research with Dr. Kevin Davies (associate professor of chemistry at FGCU) in the field of biomedical imaging. And I spent three summers as a special-needs inclusion counselor at Ramah Darom, a summer camp in Clayton, Georgia.
FGCU360: As a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) student with great academic demands, how do you make time for your community involvement? How many hours do you estimate you contributed to public service while attending FGCU?
KOHL-FINK: Since day one, my dad has always told me how important it was to prioritize my studies, so I made sure to always focus on my schooling and passion for science, while at the same time making sure I would have some free time to give back and work with others as a way to get my head out of the books!
Honestly, I find community service a form of enjoyment. It helps me de-stress and helps clear my mind after hours of studying. I remember being in the library for about 100 hours one finals week and it felt like forever, but 100 hours of community involvement just go by so quickly for me. I think right now I have 833 registered hours with FGCU, but that’s not counting all the hours that I haven’t had documented. It was more important for me to be out there volunteering than worrying about making sure I collected hours, so not everything’s included in that total.
FGCU360: Talk about your motivation to become a doctor, and what medical practice you might specialize in. Where do you plan to attend graduate school?
KOHL-FINK: My dad was my biggest role model when it came down to deciding to be a doctor. After he got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and had to stop working, I saw what that meant to him. He loved working as an emergency room physician, and since I have always had a passion for science and helping others, I decided what better path than to follow in my dad’s footsteps as a physician.
Honestly, I’m not 100 percent sure what I want to specialize in. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with a couple of different kinds of doctors throughout the years, and I’ve learned I kind of enjoyed all of them in their own unique way. From dermatology to ENT and even internal medicine, they all seem like great fields to go into. And while I would love to stay in the state of Florida so I can stay close to my family, I’m open to new experiences and to most schools.
FGCU360: You also have a love for soccer and coach with an elite local organization. Please talk about that passion.
KOHL-FINK: Two years ago I was practicing at the fields with some friends and I was approached by Anthony “Stovi” Stovall, a soccer coach around here. He asked me and my friend if we were interested in joining Black Watch Premier as his assistant coaches. Since then, working with BWP has been a pleasure.
In our first year there, we had over two-thirds of our players get offers to go play at a collegiate level, which is the purpose of a showcase team — to show off our players so they can get offers to continue developing their talents at a higher level. This year, we got hired as the head coaches for the U19 showcase team and have since had the pleasure of working with and learning from FGCU men’s soccer coaches Jesse Cormier and Sheldon Cipriani.
FGCU360: Who are your most influential role models?
KOHL-FINK: My mom, for sure. She has always been there and supported me. She’s the one who put me on this path, and I could never thank her enough for everything she’s done. I’ve witnessed her sacrifice so much for my siblings and me so that we could live the life we have, and I strive to be the best I can every day to make her proud and one day repay her for always being there for us. My dad legally adopted me at a young age and was a huge role model when it came down to deciding to be a doctor.
Here at FGCU, I have had the pleasure of meeting so many great staff and faculty members, but Jorge Lopez (director of financial aid), Roger Smithson (academic advisor) and Dr. Davies really stand out.
Mr. Lopez, since my freshman year, has been helping me make sure my financial aid is the best that it can be so that I would be able to afford college even after my dad got disabled and stopped working. Roger not only has been my advisor during my time here in the College of Arts & Sciences, but has truly been one of my biggest mentors and closest friends. I know whenever I need advice on anything, I can always count on him, and I am so glad to have met him here. Dr. Davies was the first professor to truly put faith in me. He would always commend how great our table was doing in the class, and he has since guided me in my chemistry classes and throughout my senior research, in which we worked on biomedical imaging together.
Outside the university, Dr. Bendetowicz became like a father figure to me during my time here in Fort Myers. Since giving me an internship at his office to hiring me full-time as part of his practice, he has constantly kept faith in me. Dr. Ben has taught me so much in the field of medicine and in life, from teaching me how to give an EKG to how to handle and care for patients’ charts. I know that I am much more prepared in this field thanks to the past three years under his mentorship.
FGCU360: How has FGCU helped you develop and grow as a student and as a person?
KOHL-FINK: I will never be able to thank FGCU enough for everything. As cliché as it sounds, FGCU has introduced me to lifelong friends and connections. FGCU helped me grow as a person, and learn more about myself than I ever imagined. In my process of transitioning from a lost high-school graduate who had no idea what was going on to becoming the man I am today, I honestly could not have done it without FGCU. I sincerely want to say thank you to my professors here. They’ve all taught me a multitude of life lessons that I will never forget.
I had thoughts of transferring to other universities. I even ended up getting accepted into two bigger Florida schools, but something in my gut told me to stay here, and I am so glad I did because I would not trade this experience for anything. Between all the friendly students, the genuinely caring staff who truly make you feel like a student and not a statistic, to the man who waves hello at the entrance to the university (Robert Green, campus greeter), and the constant push toward bettering and helping the community, FGCU strives to be the best university it can be. I think that’s what made me strive to be the best form of myself that I could be. I know I’ll continue to grow and learn as I soar with my wings and leave this university, but I cannot thank FGCU enough for guiding me all these years. I think that is my definition of The FGCU Effect.
- Read about Estelle Ayomen
#EAGLES LOVE TO SERVE
• Under the banner of “We Connect Classrooms and Communities,” the Office of Service-Learning & Civic Engagement coordinates an educational experience matching FGCU students’ academic goals and personal interests while meeting needs of the university and the Southwest Florida community.
• The service-learning experience has proven to be mutually beneficial; by volunteering their time and talent to help nonprofit organizations, students enhance their own communication skills, critical thinking and social awareness.
• The minimum hours needed to graduate are 80 for those who start at FGCU as freshmen or sophomores and 40 hours for upper-level transfer students.
• The numbers tell the initiative’s resounding success story: Since 1997, FGCU students have contributed more than 3 million service hours through about 300 integrated academic courses involving some 350 community partners.