From finance to physician: an unlikely path forward
From finance to physician: an unlikely path forward
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Aaron Wilcox (BSBA ’06, MD ’10) believes his effectiveness in navigating through the challenges of being a surgeon are directly tied to the academic experiences that least relate to the industry in which he operates: his degree from Fisher and his participation in the Honors Cohort program.
It is no secret that those working in medicine are under an immense amount of stress. The long hours and the need to make quick decisions to save lives can take a toll on any individual.
Natural ability and grit aside, it is Aaron Wilcox’s desire to help and the skills he developed throughout his time at Fisher — and specifically in the Honors Cohort program — that primed him for taking on this challenge.
The journey toward becoming a surgeon is arduous. Most advise students to find a passion for it early. That is not how it played out for Wilcox.
"The message of my journey is that it is okay to pursue an unlikely path. Every step of the way, I kept my options open."
With today’s abundance of information and ease of communication, a college degree, even a specialized one, can unlock more doors than ever before. Rather than pressuring himself to find the one that checks every box, Wilcox “constantly pursued what was interesting to me.”
Wilcox, a member of the eighth Honors Cohort, graduated from Fisher in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. As graduation approached, he took interest in the medical profession, one that several of his family members had pursued. He completed all prerequisites for medical school as an undergraduate and was able to continue his education at Ohio State’s College of Medicine. He completed his residency at Mount Carmel Medical Center in Columbus and had the opportunity to spend a month of training and service in Rwanda.
Wilcox was intent on leaving Mount Carmel in a better place than he found it. He became an administrative chief, collaborating with peers to plan the organization’s future. Together, they created a digital curriculum featuring podcasts, articles and case studies to lay that groundwork for the training of future residents in the program. Today, Wilcox is a surgeon at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, the largest medical group in the country. He practices at Kaiser Permanente in Orange County, California.
Today, Wilcox is a surgeon at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, the largest medical group in the country.
“It is a career that requires extreme dexterity,” Wilcox says. “You have to perform at a high level at all times, and that makes it difficult to find balance in your personal life.”
Family and friends followed Wilcox to California and they act as his counter to the pressures he faces at work.
“What you do impacts another human being directly and that is the ultimate challenge,” he adds. “For me, it has always been about people, many of whom influenced my career moves. It was usually a relationship that drew me from one place to the next, and I trusted that it would work out.”
Despite operating approximately 10 times a week, Wilcox remains humble and altruistic. He sets aside time for continuous improvement efforts both at work and in his communities. He leads the SCPMG’s peritoneal dialysis surgical program, digging for process failures and enhancing patient care. He sits on a bioethics and peer review committee to sharpen his groups’ practice and participates in a local nonprofit, AccessOC, to provide medical care for low-income residents of Orange County.
Wilcox believes his effectiveness in setting the direction of multiple organizations can be tied to the academic experiences that least relate to the industry in which he operates: his degree from Fisher and participation in the Honors Cohort.
“I did have to learn to think like a doctor in medical school, but I think my background in finance allowed me to pick up on the biases of those around me and maintain a pronounced curiosity toward what was for me a new subject,” Wilcox explains.
The attention to detail Fisher expects of its finance students has translated into an adherence to process for Wilcox, a mindset he looks to instill in his peers. Cohort gave him the interpersonal skills he needed to do so.
“The program helped me think and work in groups. It demonstrated to me the power of collaboration in problem-solving,” he says.
These tools propel Wilcox to thrive in an industry as complex as healthcare and alleviate the stress of decision-making in his peers.
After so many years of aiming for a single goal, Wilcox now has the freedom to entertain other passions. This past summer, he joined Cohort’s Advisory Council.
“I was looking for a new project — a new source of meaning,” he says. “It felt like the right time to reengage with the program and Fisher.”
In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, now, more than ever, the world is leaning on fearless leadership, creativity in the face of adversity and humble dedication to our communities. Seeds planted in my years at Fisher and the Honors Cohort program continue to bear fruit – for that I am thankful! It is my sincere hope that this finds you healthy!
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