Exercise Science majors Zachary Rader and Jonathan Golden may look like typical college seniors, but their path to graduation took them on a journey of self discovery.
At 24-years-old, Rader may be a little older than other graduates. That’s because while pursuing his undergraduate degree, he’s also been serving in the National Guard as a combat medic.
“I decided to join in 2012 at 19 years old,” said Rader. “I wanted to go to Afghanistan—my mom is there now and my dad has been there and to Iraq. I just felt I wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t go.”
At his mom’s insistence, he decided to train as a medic, and through his training and deployment to Guatemala, he found his passion.
“I had changed my major several times, but when I was deployed, I got to experience treating patients hands on,” he said. “That’s when I solidified I wanted to go into the medical field.”
While serving his country and pursuing his undergraduate degree, Rader also made it a point to do research. He and Golden recently presented at the National Council on Undergraduate Research Conference in Memphis. The pair examined stress response.
“We looked at the moderators of stress response based on psychological profile and gender,” said Rader.
The goal from their findings is to possibly “predict who is more prone to develop PTSD.”
Golden and Rader met by accident when they were both late for the first day of a lab class. Since then, they’ve researched together, worked as Supplemental Instructors and tutors, and are even planning the same career path.
“Zach actually talked me out of going into physical therapy (PT) and into looking at physician assistant (PA) school,” said Golden. “Right now, we both are trying to decide whether to go the research master’s route, to PA school or to medical school.”
An avid traveler, Golden has always looked for ways to combine his passion for people and health care—to the point he even developed his own internship opportunity as a sophomore with the Rwandan National Cycling Team.
“I had three goals while working with the team—to provide medical response to injuries, to teach courses to trainers in Rwanda and to complete medical assessments on the athletes,” said Golden. Two of the athletes he worked with went on to compete in Rio Olympics.
All the programing, tests and assessments were put together with the help of faculty in the exercise science program.
“If you have the drive to do anything, the faculty will help you. They bend over backward for students,” said Golden. “Our program makes it seem less like going to school to get an undergrad degree and more so learning to make a difference and help people.”
Both Golden and Rader do that through their work on and off campus. Rader works in the hospital’s emergency room, and Golden has helped with the Oconee Youth Cycling Team and Survive and Thrive Cancer Wellness Program.
They plan to continue to make a difference wherever their careers take them.
“This summer I will be traveling to Belize to spend three months working in a rural emergency room,” said Golden. “My dream career would be to have a job locked down in America practicing medicine and conducting research, with the freedom to travel the world for disaster relief medicine should the need arise.”
“In 2018, I will be deployed to the Middle East,” said Rader. “I also hope to eventually be able to travel and work in underprivileged areas all over the world, and continue to work in emergency care when I’m home in the states.”