Becoming RUSM’s 15,000th graduate was the icing on the cake for Anderson who had – at long last – achieved the dream he had wanted since childhood. He now stands poised to enter residency at his first-choice hospital, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, in his specialty of choice: General Surgery.
And while it may seem like ancient history now, there was a time when Anderson questioned whether his dream would ever come true…
The first physician in his family, Anderson isn’t sure exactly where the desire to become one came from – he just knows that it’s something he has always wanted.
“It’s the longest memory I have,” he said. “Since I started walking and talking, I always knew I was going to be a doctor.”
In high school, Anderson was lucky enough to be part of a brand new program called the Health Academy, which brought together students from several local high schools to complete the high school science curriculum and gave them first-hand exposure to what life as a doctor was like.
“There were EMT and CNA classes and we got to follow physicians in the hospital and visit the lab where all the blood work was analyzed. My junior year I was able to shadow a doctor in the ICU,” Anderson explained. “It was really neat to be able to see that stuff in person.”
After high school, Anderson joined the Navy, where he served for six years as a helicopter search and rescue swimmer. When his term of service was over, he and his wife and children moved to Nebraska, where he started college and worked as an EMT and non-invasive cardiac technologist. After graduating, Anderson continued working in those two positions while applying to US medical schools, but wasn’t having much luck.
“Things weren’t really working out and we weren’t making ends meet, so I completely changed career paths and became a police officer,” Anderson said.
Being a police officer, however, only served to reinforce his desire to become a physician.
“As a cop, you go into the emergency room quite a bit,” he said. “I’d come home every day and tell my wife how miserable I was because I kept seeing everything I’d always wanted and wasn’t in a position to do. I finally got to the point where I decided to look at how I could get back into medicine. It was at that point that I found RUSM, and the rest is history.”
Anderson’s experience at RUSM was “incredible.”
“Everything you could ever want was right there,” he said. “The state-of-the-art campus, notably the cadaver lab were the best things on campus. I was an Anatomy TA and was in the cadaver lab all the time.”
Anderson credits his time in the RUSM anatomy lab for piquing his interest in surgery – but it was his third year Surgery rotation at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland that solidified his decision.
“I was going back and forth between Surgery and Emergency Medicine,” he explained. “With my background, it seemed like Emergency Medicine would be a great fit for me, but then the very first surgery I was on had me hooked. I was 100 percent set for surgery from then on.”
Knowing how competitive General Surgery is, Anderson cast a wide net when it came time to enter the National Resident Matching Program® The MATCH℠.
“Even though I knew exactly what I wanted, I applied broadly across the country,” he said. “Once it opened up I got an [interview] invite the very first day, and it started to feel real at that moment. Then the invites just kept coming, and after that, everything went really smoothly.”
With the help of his wife and children, Anderson chose Northeast Georgia Medical Center as his number one choice for several reasons.
“When it came to Georgia, we fell in love,” he said. “And going into the hospital and meeting the faculty and other residents, they just set it in place for me. You could tell the surgeons we met had a genuine interest in their residents. All in all, it just felt like home for us.”
According to Anderson, “getting back into the operating room” is what excites him the most about residency.
“My last surgery was in May of ’19, so I’m looking forward to getting back in there and getting to work as a doctor and not a medical student,” he said.
When asked what his goals for the future are beyond residency, Anderson was quick to note his love for cardiothoracic surgery, and hopes for a fellowship opportunity to open up down the road.
Right now, however, he is taking a moment to take in all that he has accomplished.
“It’s a surreal feeling sometimes, finally being a doctor,” he said. “During the moment, you feel like time has slowed down and you’re never going to get through. It’s such hard work that when you finally have a moment to look back, you realize how fast the time actually flew by. It’s hard to believe this all started four years ago.”
He continued, “RUSM means everything. They were able to give me everything I’ve always wanted for as long as I can remember. You get turned down by people and they take that dream away from you even after you tell them over and over that you can do it. RUSM listened to me, and I was able to keep that promise and graduate with a 4.0. That’s something I’ll never forget.”