BACK IN THE GAME
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ANTHONY PARKER | Student | Wallace, N.C.
Undergrad: North Carolina State University
BY CHERRY CRAYTON, PHOTO BY BRAYN REAGAN
About five years ago, Anthony Parker was a senior at Wallace-Rose Hill High School playing in the first half of a varsity football game when he made a catch as the tight end. He took off, running for 42 yards, before a hard tackle brought him down and caused his head to hit the field and suffer whiplash. He didn’t play the rest of the game.
A few days later, Parker was in the team’s weight room lifting a 40-pound dumbbell with his left hand, effortlessly. He tried to lift the weight with his right hand. He couldn’t. He tried a 20-pound weight. He couldn’t lift that one either. He told a coach: “Something’s wrong. Why can’t I do this?” Coach told him: “It’s time you go see someone.”
Parker missed the next game and visited a chiropractor in Wallace, N.C., his hometown. Parker had a pinched nerve. The chiropractor made a manipulation, and Parker got back to playing. And with just a few more manipulations, Parker had regained his full strength. What the chiropractor did – how he helped others – stayed with Parker.
So when he was a freshman at N.C. State University and thinking about different career options, Parker went back to the chiropractor and asked if he could shadow him for a day. Parker liked what he saw and how the chiropractor interacted with his patients. The chiropractor knew who the teachers were and who the fire fighters were. He knew patients’ mothers and grandmothers. He offered free adjustments for children on certain weekends.
Parker told the chiropractor: “I love what you do, and I want to do what you do.”
The chiropractor was honest: “I love my career, but if I had to do it over again, I would probably go into osteopathic medicine.”
Parker had never heard of osteopathic medicine before. He read up on the profession and shadowed a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. He fell in love with it. “As a DO, you’re not just fixing people when they’re hurt or sick. You’re working on total body wellness and lifestyle changes,” Parker says. “That’s something that was really important to me: helping people with their whole lifestyle.”
When Parker found out that Campbell University was opening its School of Osteopathic Medicine, he felt like he had found his calling. He became a biological sciences major at N.C. State, where he graduated from in May 2013. He became a volunteer at Duke Raleigh Hospital. He participated in the hospital’s shadowing physician program, which gave him the opportunity to watch a couple of surgeries and procedures. And he mentored children with disabilities at Learning Together, a nonprofit in Raleigh. “I knew [osteopathic medicine] was what I was supposed to do and Campbell was where I was supposed to be,” says Parker, adding that Campbell was the only medical school he applied to.
He was in his vehicle, just coming from a gym playing basketball, when he got a phone call that he had been accepted into Campbell’s medical school. He thought: “I’m one step closer to where I want to be.”
This October, two months after he starts medical school classes, he’ll marry his high school sweetheart, Carrie Sanderson. Then, after he graduates from medical school and completes a residency and a fellowship, he hopes to go back to his hometown and open up a family and sports medicine practice and, down the road, perhaps a total wellness center and even a fitness center. There are no fitness centers like Gold’s Gym or Planet Fitness currently in Wallace.
“I want to give back to my community and help people,” he says. “If I were able to go back and help only 100 people, that’ll be OK, because that’s a 100 people who might not otherwise have had help.”