PHYSICIAN’S FASCINATING JOURNEY IS JUST GETTING UNDERWAY
Jared Forrester ’08 (BA) is sitting in a hip South Park coffee house, sipping water. Outside, jackhammers pound at cement, the decibel level roughly equivalent to sitting next to a condo-sized speaker at a Metallica concert.
Leaning in to hear Forrester proves worth the effort, because the 30-year-old is a fascinating study: He’s a doctor, former Torero linebacker under Jim Harbaugh, and man of the world, having practiced medicine in Milwaukee, Palo Alto, Nepal and Ethiopia.
The son of a pulmonologist, as a child Forrester wanted nothing to do with medicine.
“My brother and I had no interest at all,” says Forrester, who grew up outside of Denver. Both are now in residency at Stanford University, on a path to becoming general surgeons.
Jared’s pivot to medicine was gradual. Football injuries that resulted in three shoulder surgeries, plus two operations to re-attach his pectoral muscles, piqued his interest. A summer college job unloading cargo in 120-degree trucks convinced him: “Doing something with my brain was a better way to go.”
At Stanford, the residency program for general surgeons lasts seven years, five in clinical study, two in professional development. Forrester has completed two years of clinical study. His professional development has taken him to Ethiopia, where he’s working as a research fellow for the Lifebox Foundation. A nonprofit charity based in the United States and United Kingdom, Lifebox works to implement sustainable changes that raise the safety and quality standards for global surgery and anesthesia.
“I think the time is now to capitalize on the growing interest in surgical care in order to make a difference,” says Forrester.
He’s found Ethiopia fascinating.
“Ethiopian people are incredibly warm and welcoming and open, especially when you’re there a decent amount of time.”
By late September 2017, Forrester had lived in Jimma and Addis Ababa, the national capital, for nearly 11 months combined. In a country of 80 languages, he communicates via the national language, Amharic.
“I can get around the city and order food,” he says.
He found the imperialistic approach to global surgery — “We have all the answers, go there and try to impact them with our wisdom” — to be the wrong approach. “It’s better to learn a little bit of the language, culture, and ask people what their biggest frustrations are. Then find creative solutions.”
In Ethiopia, those frustrations include medical accountability plus resource constraints that Americans would find remarkable, like the lack of adequate roads just to reach a facility and access to reliable electricity.
One of the biochemistry major’s professors at USD was Dr. Peter Iovine, his organic chemistry instructor.
“One of the things which stood out about Jared is that he was very confident with his hands, which is something that’s important in organic chemistry,” said Iovine. “He carried himself with self-confidence and an ability to think on his feet.”
Iovine, in fact, suggested to Forrester that he consider quitting football and practice chemistry research in his lab. While Forrester did later perform multistep organic synthesis research for Iovine, he never quit football.
In fact, he remains fascinated with Harbaugh, who went on to coach at Stanford, the San Francisco 49ers and now Michigan. “The most intense person I’ve ever been around,” he says of Harbaugh.
To this day, Forrester still hears some of Harbaugh’s mantras ringing in his ears: “Attack this day with enthusiasm … Who can possibly have it better than us? … Iron sharpens iron.”
Forrester reflects on an Amharic phrase, which roughly translated means, “Slowly but surely, the egg will walk on its legs.”
“This is part of the journey of how to go about learning to provide global surgery care,” he says. “And it’s my own journey of life, to learn and grow along the way.” — Don Norcross