“I never considered becoming a doctor as a kid, or even a young teenager,” Benjamin Catoe, DO, admits. “My focus was on sports and the outdoors, which pulled my interest much more than academics.” Dr. Catoe’s journey to become an osteopathic medical student and orthopedic surgeon proves that there are many paths to medicine—and sometimes, it’s the path that chooses you, not the other way around.
Dr. Catoe, now an orthopedic surgery resident at Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital, studied osteopathic medicine at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), Carolinas Campus. But before he began his studies, practicing medicine was the farthest thing from his mind.
“At the time, I wanted to incorporate what I loved in life with my future job, and athletic training was a natural fit,” he explains. “I started my college career at Charleston Southern University pursuing an athletic training degree with the plan of either graduate school or becoming a DPT.”
However, as he progressed through his athletic training courses, he began to have more interactions with orthopedic surgeons. And he started to feel like there was more for him to do.
“Whether you want to say it was a ‘calling’ or intuition, I felt like pursuing a career in medicine, and ultimately orthopedic surgery, was the desire and challenge that was right for me. So, during my sophomore year of college, I sat down with my advisor and mapped out a plan to take prerequisite courses for medical school while still completing my athletic training degree.”
Things changed further during Dr. Catoe’s senior year of college, when he received his first introduction to osteopathic medicine through his Athletic Training program director. “Ultimately, he convinced me that becoming an osteopathic physician would prepare me to become the physician I wanted to be, and have the personal impact on patients that he knew I desired.”
Dr. Catoe started to see an ideal fit between his personal aspirations and osteopathic medicine—and it was through his program director that he started to see the connection. “He demonstrated its philosophies in our rehabilitation and treatment courses,” he says, “but he also sat down with me on numerous occasions to explain how osteopathic medicine would not only be a natural fit for me as a physician, but as a surgeon. Having had exposure to osteopathic medicine during his athletic training career, he understood its values not only from a standpoint of personal and patient care, but also the added benefit of extra training in human anatomy and how beneficial that would be in an operating room.”
Dr. Catoe believes that medical training in osteopathic manipulative medicine is ideal for surgeons. “The constant immersion in human anatomy and physiology through courses in OMM/OMT consistently reinforces the basics that surgeons need to know to be successful,” he says. “At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s about being better than the doctor next to me, but rather being the best surgeon I can be, and my osteopathic training gave me the foundation I need to be the best surgeon I can be for my patients.”
Although his career isn’t what he expected it to be, Dr. Catoe says he has no regrets. “There really isn’t much about my journey to and through medical school that I would change,” he says. “Each step prepared me for the next, and I was blessed to have attended VCOM in South Carolina, where I received a great education that allowed me to excel on board exams and rotations, and to obtain my residency of choice.”