This story is part of a series following University of Findlay alumni who have gone on to have meaningful lives and productive careers right here in the local Findlay community. Their stories provide a glimpse of the difference UF students and graduates make in the lives and businesses of our immediate area, and of the impact a UF education can have right here at home.
The effect that different people have on our lives often goes unnoticed until reflecting back upon the mark they have made. People need to see success to be success, and fortunately, for Bret Bahn ’99, M.D., a member of the team of doctors at Northwest Ohio Orthopedics and Sports Medicine (NWO), there have been people throughout his life who have helped to check off the boxes of achievement, whether it was as a student, as a United States service member, or in his current profession as a medical doctor.
In his youth, and as a 1st Team All-Ohio placekicker at Riverdale High School in nearby Mt. Blanchard, Ohio, Bahn said, the opportunity to play football in college was important to him. His father is a graduate of Findlay (then known as Findlay College) and, because he was the valedictorian of his class at Riverdale, Bret was offered a scholarship that University of Findlay made available to both valedictorians and salutatorians at the time, covering full tuition. “The financial savings were very important since I knew at that time I was going to be pursuing medical school,” he said; and of similarly great importance in his decision to become an Oiler was the coach of UF’s football team at that time, College Football Hall of Fame member and four-time NAIA National Champion Coach Richard “Dick” Strahm, who Bahn called a “very important role model.” Bahn eventually became the placekicker for the 1997 UF National Championship team and was named 1998 Academic All-American the following year as a punter. With plans of academic success and the retirement of Strahm, however, he did not play his senior year, instead taking an overload of classes to set himself up for graduating early. “When Coach Strahm retired from football, so did I,” Bahn explained.
Calling his time at UF “a great experience,” Bahn said that playing football for Coach Strahm was a huge positive. “The man taught me so much,” Bahn said. “I even called on him last year to come talk to my son’s football team at Van Buren before a game and the talk resulted in a win. I still have many good friends from that championship team, and I credit a lot of my admission into medical school from my experiences as a student athlete and the honors I was able to obtain.” In addition to Coach Strahm and his football teammates, Bahn was fortunate to have a great group of studying friends who met before every test to review material, a group that included current UF Board of Trustees member Brant Rhoad. Suffice it to say, Bahn’s success on the gridiron and in the classroom led to a greater confidence in himself. As it turned out, though, he was just getting started.
Upon graduating a semester early in 1999 with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry, Bahn worked for Blanchard Valley Hospital, saving up for what would, in 2000, be the beginning of his medical education at Medical College of Ohio (now University of Toledo). During that period, and after he graduated from the MCO program, he began to think of his past relatives, including his grandfather, who served in the United States Navy, and the many positives that they had taken from their service to the country. The Navy, he explained, had some locations for medical training that were favorable to him, and he knew he would be able to take advantage of the opportunity to further his future. “The Navy paid for three years of my medical school and my commitment was three years of active duty service in repayment,” Bahn said. After enlisting, he attended a surgical internship at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and was then stationed in Pensacola, Florida for flight training as he decided to “pay back his time to the Navy” as a flight surgeon. “After completing flight school, I was stationed with the U.S. Marine Corps in Jacksonville, North Carolina,” he added. “I have about a hundred hours behind the controls on the aircraft which is a dual piloted aircraft. My time as a flight surgeon with the U.S. Marine Corps allowed me to develop confidence as a physician, [and that] helped me along the way in my residency for anesthesia and fellowship. I owe a lot of my experience to my time in the U.S. Navy.”
He eventually completed his anesthesia residency at the University of Michigan in 2011 and his interventional pain fellowship at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. Today, he is an interventional pain management physician at NWO, where he said that his days are spent caring for those with pain and providing specialized interventions and care for them through multiple different types of injections and procedures to help with pain, including spine care, joint pain, and interventions for some cancer-related pain. He said that UF prepared him well for both his medical education and for the meaningful career he enjoys today. Being a successful member of the NWO team of doctors, Bahn said, takes a particular set of teamwork skills, those that, in himself, he took from being a part of the Oiler football team. “I credit much of my admission into medical school to my experiences as a student athlete as well as the honors I was able to obtain. I still have many good friends from that championship team,” he said.
As a native of Hancock County, Bahn, who is a guest speaker at UF’s virtual observance this Veterans Day, is proud to call the surrounding area home. He and his wife of 21 years, Annette, are Findlay Faithfuls, having kindled their relationship at UF, and were both raised locally. “We have lived in seven states in our lives in some pretty neat locations,” he said, “but ultimately decided to move back home to raise our kids where we grew up. Both of our parents still live in Hancock county, and it is a great place for families.” By taking on the responsibility of being a model of success for the couple’s four children, Gannon (17), Lainey (15), Tanner, (13), and Cooper, (10), the Bahns are simply doing what so many before them have done: offering guidance to those who need to see success to be success. “It’s so important for those who have seen and learned the steps toward achievement from their own mentors – like I did from UF, the U.S. Navy, and others – to be there in the same way for the young people who come after them. That’s how success is really built.”