Interview with Jake Matthews

Inteview by Colin Lynch

What are your professional goals?

My professional goals are to graduate with a neuroscience degree and then apply to med school and then hopefully become a successful doctor. I am not sure what kind of doctor I want to become yet, but I have shadowed an anesthesiologist and an orthopedic surgeon. I know I want to become some kind of surgeon because I’m a born, natural leader. When you shadow different kinds of doctors in the O.R., you see that the surgeons are the leaders of the room and I think I would be very good at that job. I am also very good with my hands due to my sports background and want to help those people who desperately need medical care.

Do you think that your background in football has given you some of the skills necessary to have a career in medicine?

Yes it has. I have been playing sports since I was four years old and I have spent thousands and thousands of hours honing the craft and gaining fine and gross motor skills throughout my whole body, which helps with hand-eye coordination. This is one reason why I think I would make a good surgeon, as I’m good with my hands. It has also taught me discipline, it teaches mental toughness, and it teaches how to be passionate about something. If you want to succeed, get accepted to medical school, help out society, and so on, you need to be passionate about what ever it is that you want to do. Sports have taught me that if you aren’t passionate and don’t prepare adequately, then you are going to be exposed by your opponent and that opponent may be a test in school.

Has seeing all the athletes get injured around you inspired you to pursue medical school?

Yes! In football especially you see all these ACL tears and other injuries constantly. In fact I have been injured myself. I dislocated my mid-foot and had six screws surgically implanted in my left foot. I was out for eight months. Going through that time when I was on crutches for two months and rehabbing every day was a struggle. To have incredible healthcare professionals that help get you back to where you were in the first place is amazing. Without them, I would be limping around for my whole life. It’s so cool that it gives me the chills just thinking about the quality of life you can give someone by taking care of them with your knowledge and ability to practice healthcare. Doctors aren’t only curing a physical body; they are curing minds. Healthy mind, healthy body, after all.

Is that one reason why you chose the neuroscience and cognitive science degree so you can understand that mind-body connection?

That is one reason, yes. I am so interested in neuroscience because I am interested in all the entities of the brain … The brain is one part of the body that we know so much about and yet know so little about it at the same time. There is so much left to be learned and so much left to research, and that mind-body connection is one of the things we know very little about. But the degree is helping to draw some of the relationships between the two.

Is your NSCS degree preparing you in other ways for medical school?

Yeah, I think so. I just spoke with someone who is going through medical school right now and just finished the neuroscience block and they said that it is the hardest block in med school. I will already have the background I need to get through that relatively easily so that the physiology or the anatomy block becomes the hardest for me.  

Do you have any advice for people who want to become a student-athlete?

I could go on for hours and hours on that. I think that the biggest thing people need to realize is that it’s going to be hard, quite possibly the hardest four years of your life. Medical school may not even be as hard. There you put in a lot of hours and use a lot of brainpower, but your body is feeling healthy. As a student athlete, it’s not just your brain that hurts, but everything else too. Also, when you get to Division 1, you are working as part of a multi-million dollar business, which kind of takes the fun out of it. You as a player, then, need to put the fun back into it with your teammates and pick each other up when you’re down. You also need to hold onto your passion and the reason why you started playing sports in the first place, as you won’t get through your sport without it.