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Youngest M.D. to graduate from University of Chicago is just 21

Sho Yano 21 is about become youngest student ever awarded an M.D. by University Chicago. |  AP Photo/Courtesy University

Sho Yano, 21, is about to become the youngest student ever awarded an M.D. by the University of Chicago. | AP Photo/Courtesy the University of Chicago

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Updated: July 10, 2012 6:04AM

When 21-year-old Sho Yano is handed his diploma Saturday, he will become the youngest M.D. the University of Chicago has ever produced.

“I guess it’s a good feeling to be the youngest, but it doesn’t feel like something particularly unusual to me,” says Yano, who entered college at age 9, medical school at 12 and begins his medical career next week with a residency in pediatric neurology at the University of Chicago Hospitals. “It’s just what I’ve done.”

Yano first came to the world’s attention when he enrolled at Loyola University Chicago, determined to obtain a bachelor’s degree in biology. He graduated in just three years —

summa cum laude — at 12.

He had a passion for medicine but also for music. He is an accomplished pianist who was playing music by ear at 3 and composing by 5.

He chose to focus on medicine, triggering a search by his parents to find a medical school that would accept such a young student. Several turned him down. The U. of C. took a chance that he would be mature enough to handle things.

“We were convinced from the beginning that he was going to be a physician,” said Dr. Joel Scwab, a pediatrics professor who interviewed the young med school applicant. “We’ve had a lot of brilliant people here but none that started when they were 12. He performed very well and interacted very well with patients. He cares a lot.”

“None of us knew how he’d be accepted,” said Dr. Shalini Reddy, associate dean of the medical school. “But when he came in, he very quickly established rapport and was so beloved by his classmates, it was amazing. He’s just a really sweet, wonderful guy.”

Though he was much younger than his classmates, Yano says, “I loved med school, and I loved being in the hospital. It’s just been a great experience. It confirmed for me why I wanted to be a doctor. You can make changes in people’s lives and walk with them in some very personal moments.”

Born in Portland, Ore., Yano, who lives in Hyde Park, was home-schooled by his mother. He began reading at 2 and was writing by 3. At 8, he scored 1,500 out of 1,600 possible points on the SAT.

After news stories appeared about the exceptionally young college student, Yano’s parents heard from people who questioned whether they were pushing their son to do too much too young.

“I am very proud of Sho, that’s No. 1,” says his mother, Kyung Yano. “I’m also very happy for Sho because he found something he really liked, and he did it.

“I wouldn’t say I feel vindicated — I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. But I got so much criticism from so many people during this journey. My priority was never my kids’ academic success but their well-being and happiness.”

She and her husband, Katsura Yano, have a second young genius in the family in their 15-year-old daughter, Sayuri, who got her bachelor’s degree in biology from Roosevelt University in 2010. A violinist, she’s now pursuing a degree in music at Johns Hopkins University.

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