Graduate and upcoming resident Ben Ashworth at AUC's Match Madness event in Miami, FL.
Most medical students tell of childhood dreams to become a doctor. Not Ben Ashworth.
At 12 years-old, Ashworth was making a name for himself in baseball and had a promising future in the big leagues. By the time high school ended, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and a year later, the Texas Rangers came knocking. But the dream stopped there.
Before signing his contract, Ashworth suffered a ruptured disc in his back—an injury that ultimately ended his pitching career. To this day, he still experiences chronic back pain.
With baseball taking a back seat, Ashworth enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University and graduated with a degree in industrial technology. He pursued construction, a field he knew well, but quickly grew anxious. A certain something was missing from his life; he felt unfulfilled.
Exploring New Horizons
When his brother got married, Ashworth, then 28, began spending time with new family members. He was particularly fond of his brother’s father-in-law, who was also a retired spinal surgeon. They discussed interesting cases, medical challenges, the mechanics of the human body, surgeries—you name it.
Ashworth was hooked.
Motivated and intrigued at the possibility of a medical career, he began shadowing local doctors. He was fascinated by the operating room and immediately drawn to the work of surgeons and anesthesiologists. Having experienced anesthesia’s impact firsthand on his back pain, Ashworth was also deeply personally interested in the field. That type of career, he sensed, would be fulfilling.
Fulfilling His Passion at AUC
For the next three years, Ashworth tried to get into medical school. He was asked to interview time after time, only to be waitlisted and ultimately turned down. The process was grueling and emotionally draining.
When a family friend mentioned offered up the idea of an international medical school (IMG), Ashworth redirected his focus. He took the advice of a particular IMG graduate who told him to look into American University of the Caribbean (AUC).
“I went online, watched videos, read testimonials, and reviewed pretty much every word on the website,” he says. “Students sounded happy, the residency scores were competitive, and I liked the smaller class sizes. For me, AUC was the best fit.”
In September 2012, at age 31, he flew to St. Maartin and enrolled at AUC.
Narrowing a Focus
During the summer of Ashworth’s third year at AUC, he faced a tough decision. Applications for the U.S. National Residency Match Placement® were looming and he still hadn’t completed core rotations in his two desired fields: surgery and anesthesiology. Fearing that surgery would be brutal on his back, Ashworth moved forward with a rotation in anesthesiology at Providence Hospital in Southfield, MI.
“I loved it,” he recalls. “I jumped out of bed every morning, excited to go to the hospital. I got to do procedures, meet patients, and see the immediate results of my work. I was sold.”
Full speed ahead, Ashworth narrowed in on anesthesiology for the Match®. He pulled together letters of recommendation, researched every anesthesiology program in the United States, looked at where IMGs had matched in the past, and developed an exhaustive spreadsheet. In total, he applied to 88 of 129 anesthesiology programs.
Ashworth received 19 interviews, including with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). As a competitive program in a small town, and with leading national experts and premier facilities, TTUHSC emerged as his first ranked choice.
On March 18, 2016, while at AUC’s Match Madness event in Miami, FL, the email came through. It was a match and starting in July, Ashworth will be one of four anesthesiology residents at TTUHSC.
Anesthesiology and Beyond
Though residency has not yet started, Ashworth is already thinking about the future. TTUHSC offers one of the country’s top-rated chronic pain fellowship—and his sights set on it. And, further down the road, he would like to one day open up a chronic pain practice.
Knowing a bit about chronic pain himself, Ashworth is interested in learning about interventional, behavioral, and pharmacological techniques for pain management. During medical school, he had an MRI that revealed the L2-3, L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1 discs in his back are degenerative. His pain, unfortunately, will be a lifelong battle.
Advice for AUC Students
What’s the biggest piece of advice Ashworth can offer other AUC students approaching the 2017 Match? Call the residency coordinators at the programs you’re interested in, regardless of whether you were offered an interview. But, he cautions, be prepared when doing so. Introduce yourself, be nice, articulate your reasons for wanting to obtain a residency there, and leave a good impression.
“You won’t believe the difference it can make,” he says. “I hadn’t heard from my top three places pretty late in the game so I wrote a letter and made calls. Almost immediately, I got interviews with all three.”
The rest is history.
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Posted April 19, 2016 12:20 PM