Will you share a bit about your work as a physician? What do you do from day to day?
Though I never envisioned going into this field before medical school, I have now been practicing as an Obstetrician & Gynecology physician (Ob/Gyn) for fifteen years. I was drawn to this field by the various skills required for the job and the fact that no two days are the same.
For example, I see patients in the office and do procedures. I discuss medical management of their issues, but if they need surgery, I perform that myself. I also deliver babies, so I can follow a patient throughout the various stages of their lives! It is very rewarding and an honor to be part of so many major milestones.
How did you become interested in medicine?
I became interested in medicine in second grade. I’m not exactly sure how I decided on it, but I knew I was either going to be a surgeon or an F-15 fighter pilot. While in school, I shadowed surgeons. As a result, becoming a surgeon was my main goal. I considered various surgical fields, from neurosurgery to cardiothoracic surgery. Then, during my Ob/Gyn rotation in medical school, I found the perfect field for me.
By the second day of that rotation at Shands/UF, I knew Ob/Gyn was my future career. I was stunned at how quickly Ob/Gyn physicians could assess patients and make critical decisions, such as for STAT cesareans or other emergency surgeries. Delivering babies, performing surgery, and taking care of patients in the office all in the same day was the perfect mix of excitement and stability that I desired.
Would you tell me how you chose the Nutritional Sciences program at UF?
While I was in high school, my mom worked with the UF/IFAS Extension Agency teaching nutrition programs. I volunteered at various events for elementary and middle schoolers. As I was considering my college major as a pre-med student, I saw most of the pre-med students were choosing microbiology, biology, or other traditional tracks. I chose Nutritional Sciences because the major is more consistent with my interests and provided beneficial real-world knowledge while covering the pre-med requirements.
Many people are surprised to learn that the Nutritional Sciences curriculum is heavily weighted towards biochemistry and physiology. Now, as diet has become a stronger focus when improving wellbeing and health, I’m glad I made the choice I did. I have even found the knowledge I gained with my Nutritional Sciences degree to be personally beneficial for my own wellbeing!
How has the FSHN Department shaped your career?
During my freshman year at UF, part of my financial aid package was dependant on creating a work-study position, which meant I had to find an on-campus job. My advisor, Janna Underhill (who is absolutely wonderful!) introduced me to Dr. Susan Percival, and we discussed working in her lab. We hit it off immediately, and soon after I was washing beakers and other instruments in her lab.
I worked in her lab during all four of my undergraduate years (including summers), and she taught me so much about research. We even did research for Tropicana! My final project was evaluating the anti-inflammatory properties of various echinacea plants. To this day, I have a much broader understanding of physiology and how herbs and medicines affect us. I find myself very interested in the mechanism of action of drugs because that understanding is the link between how and why they work (or don’t work).
Dr. Percival tells me you were one of the few undergrads in her lab who attended a major scientific conference to present your research! Will you tell me about that experience?
When it was my turn to present, Dr. Percival and the rest of the FSHN Department watched…and I won! Unfortunately, since I was “only” an undergrad and it was technically a graduate-level competition, I was given an Honorable Mention for my research. It was a fantastic accomplishment and a very eye-opening experience for a small-town guy like me!
What do you like to do in your free time?
Free time…what is that?! I enjoy spending time with my wife, Casey, and our kids, Ava (5) and Eli (14). I love living in the mountains of western North Carolina. The weather and landscape are so different from Florida. We spend a lot of time outside because it is not nearly as hot, and we have four distinct seasons.
I also enjoy hiking, especially to waterfalls since Transylvania County is known as the Land of Waterfalls. Otherwise, I enjoy weightlifting, rowing, woodworking, and exploring our many local breweries. Also, as a family, we love building with Legos, trips to Disney World, and taking Disney cruises!
If you were stuck on a desert island with only three foods, what would they be and why?
#1 – Fried okra. Anyone who knows me knows I can survive on it! I consider myself a fried okra connoisseur.
#2 – Hideaway Pizza (ham & mushroom please!), from my favorite pizza place since childhood. In fact, it opened while my mom was pregnant with me, and she went frequently. So I got an early start!
#3 – Corona beer with a lime wedge. Although it’s not trendy, fancy, or glamorous, it is an easy staple I enjoy in any weather, such as during a hot Gator football tailgate or shoveling snow in the mountains!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am proud to say I am a “Triple Gator.” In 2018, I completed my MBA at UF to add to my bachelor’s degree and MD, both also from UF. The knowledge I gained during my MBA has helped me be well-rounded and has helped me strategize when in discussions with medical leadership. Understanding both sides of the story (the drive to provide patient care versus the financial side of medicine) has helped me make better career choices and navigate how to accomplish them for the benefit of my patients, my family, and myself.
Note: Some images in this post were taken prior to national guidelines of face coverings and social distancing.
Interested in learning more about FSHN’s Nutritional Sciences programs? Read more here and here and here!
P.S. The Discover FSHN Series highlights the unique experiences of UF’s Food Science and Human Nutrition students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Want to read more about the amazing work going on in the FSHN department? See our previous features below:
Shannon Mai, Dietetics
Alex Colon, Dietetics and Jenny Duong, Food Science
Jackie Shannon, Nutritional Sciences
Jennifer Jordan, Food Science
Lily Tucciarone, Dietetics
Tim Cassella, Nutritional Sciences
Savanna Curtis, Food Science (M.S.)
Carley Rusch and Matthew Beke, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Alexa Hosey, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Vicnie Leandre, Food Science (M.S.)
Rufus Theophilus, Nutritional Sciences (Ph.D.)
Amber Fritsche, Dietetics (MS/DI)
Amy Jones, Food Science (Ph.D.)
Dr. Naim Montazeri, Food Science/Food Virology
Dr. Jeanette Andrade, Dietetics
Dr. Zhiyong Cheng, Nutritional Sciences
Dr. Juan Andrade Laborde, Global Nutrition
Dr. Razieh Farzad, Food Science
Dr. Beth Gankofskie, Dietetics
Rebecca Gould, Dietetics, Postdoctoral Research
Becca Solch, Nutritional Sciences, Postdoctoral Research
Hannah Cooper, Dietetics, Private Practice
Richie Li, Food Science, Product Development