As a high school senior, Chauncey Bridges ’18, who grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan, wanted to be a college running back. The problem, however, was that several colleges were attempting to recruit him as a defensive back. Fortunately for Bridges and University of Findlay, the Oiler football coaching staff did not. “UF offered me the opportunity to pay for school, play [running back], and earn a good education that would allow me to pursue my career endeavors on the way to becoming a physician,” he said.
After being named honorable mention all-GLIAC and claiming all-region and all-conference honors in prior seasons, however, Bridges was injured just three games into his senior and final season, ending his football career.
As a result, the other part of why he chose UF, the availability of a solid education that would help to launch him into becoming a medical doctor, was flung directly to the forefront. Bridges wasn’t just a terrific student of the game of football, he was an exceptional student in the classroom as well, one with aspirations for bigger and better things. Having a career path, Bridges said, that had “always been geared toward becoming a physician,” he knew that, as heartbreaking as it was to stop playing the game he loved, it didn’t have to be the moment that defined him.
As a budding doctor, Bridges’ time as an undergraduate student at UF was very science heavy, he explained, with a biology major and chemistry minor, and his studies, subsequently, were not easy. As he was clearly never one to “take his ball and go home,” so to speak, Bridges worked hard, leaning on a number of UF faculty for various guidance. “Dr. [Michael] Edelbrock [UF professor of biology] allowed me to conduct research with him for basically all four years and was very helpful in my growth as a student,” Bridges said. “And [UF associate professor of psychology] Dr. [Andrea] Mata is another professor who I formed a strong relationship with; she was always helpful, kind, and easy to talk to. [Associate professor and chair of biology] Dr. [Bethany Henderson] Dean, was my advisor and helped me stay on track and worked with my difficult football schedule to insure I completed all the classes necessary to prepare me for medical school.” This UF support system lifted Bridges up and coaxed him forward toward graduation, as did the people at Blanchard Valley Health System and its hospital in Findlay, where he worked for two years through college. Shadowing physicians and getting a unique and specific perspective on the world of medicine allowed him a glimpse of the meaningful life and productive career he was pointed toward.
Now, after graduating from UF with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in chemistry, Bridges is several steps closer to his dream. He’s currently immersed in medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and, using the laser-like focus he had on the gridiron and in the classrooms at UF, he’s focusing on the task that’s immediately at hand there; once again, it’s not a goal that is easily accomplished. Currently an M2, or second year medical student, Bridges is readily familiar with the rigors involved in reaching his dream. “Medical school is definitely tough, but also incredibly interesting and fun,” he said. “Six to seven days a week involve four hours of lecture and another seven to ten hours of studying outside of lecture. As of right now I am just enjoying the process and as I am exposed to more branches of medicine I expect I will gravitate towards a specialty for me.” Life, he said, can be amazing, but also stressful, intense, and, of course, a lot of work. It’s work, however, that Bridges seems to have been built for and even to thrive on. “I love every second of it,” he explained. “The level of intensity that comes with being a medical student far surpasses that which I felt as a collegiate athlete. It really speaks volumes to making sure you enjoy what you decide to do as a career.”
On Senior Day in 2017, the Oiler football team, with Bridges looking on from the sideline, the place from which he never strayed even after his injury, had virtually secured a win, earning them a berth in the NCAA Division II Football Playoffs. For their final formation, Bridges made his way out onto the field at Donnell Stadium to call the last play and take a knee to run out the clock. It was not the outcome he was planning, and certainly not one that he’d wished for; but it was an opportunity for his brothers in football to honor him for the teammate he’d been. It’s a dedication that he employs with every endeavor in his life, from football to soon-to-be-physician. “I gravitated toward football because of my love for the game as well as my ability,” he said. “Similarly, medicine felt like a calling. It started as an idea, then a dream, but as I grew it transformed into a goal. I want to know more, understand more, and be able to fix what has gone wrong with people to better help them with their future.”