If Evan Bailey goes on to become the successful orthopedic surgeon that he aspires to be, he can always tell his patients the neat little story about how he became interested in the occupation.
As a middle schooler Bailey played football and basketball. When competing in the former while in the seventh grade he suffered a compound fracture of his right femur.
There is no minimizing what a terrible injury it is for anybody to suffer, let alone a kid that age. Yet, during the 18-month recovery period Bailey decided he wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon.
“I had a great surgeon who really helped me through the entire process,” he said when asked about how the career interest came about. “What he did for me is what I want to do for a kid. It is cool that I am playing basketball after such a traumatic injury.”
It has been about eight years since the 6-6 junior forward at the College of Charleston suffered the setback. Following his recovery he shelved football and focused on basketball, a decision that clearly paid off. At Jackson High in Canton, Ohio he helped lead his team to a pair of league titles and a district championship. As a senior he was named second-team All-Ohio after averaging 18 points and eight rebounds.
As impressive as he was on the court he was even more so in the classroom, including developing a strong interest in chemistry. In addition to in-state Toledo, Ivy League schools Princeton, Harvard and Penn expressed interest in Bailey becoming a student-athlete at their institutions.
“I committed to Charleston pretty early in the recruiting process, so I was pretty set on coming here all along” he said. “The academics of the Ivy League appealed to me, but the Honors College at Charleston has been a good experience.”
Charleston overall has been a good experience. Between academics, basketball and volunteering with various organizations in the community, Bailey has pieced together a well-rounded collegiate experience.
The chemistry major has been a grant recipient and researcher with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is also a College of Charleston Presidential and Academic Merit Scholar who served as a mentor to local high school students in an organic chemistry lab. In that role he advised on the lab experience from proper etiquette to how to deal with potentially harmful chemicals. Then there are helping hands he lends to church youth groups and the like.
Academic success and the importance of helping others were things that his parents, Nathan and Linda, consistently instilled. Both participated in college athletics as Nathan, after transferring from the Naval Academy, played two seasons of hoops at Pitt where he experienced going to the NCAA tourney in the late-1980s. Linda also attended Pitt and was a volleyball player at a time the program was routinely advancing to the NCAAs.
“They have had a huge influence, especially with being a hard worker,” said Bailey, who has three siblings, including a sister (Brooke) playing volleyball at Ohio State. “Seeing their success made me want to have success of my own. They taught me how to work hard and be a good teammate and all that kind of stuff.”
Bailey, who lived in France from ages 9-12 and speaks fluent French, recalls one moment in particular that helped shape his attitude toward the less fortunate.
“I remember one year when my dad and I went to a homeless shelter Christmas morning and passed out presents,” he said. “I loved seeing how the kids brightened up and how they loved having us there. My parents have always preached being a great person and helping people that do not have the resources that I might have.”
Bailey, who is averaging 10 minutes and three points per game off the Cougars’ bench heading into Saturday afternoon’s game on ASN at Drexel, is accustomed to a full schedule what with academics, basketball and community service filling his calendar. He would have it no other way.
“I think it is all about budgeting your time wisely,” he said. “I like to keep my schedule pretty filled and I get my homework done when I can. It is also good to give myself some free time to relax and not stress about my schedule.”
Those are qualities his future patients might embrace.
Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa. Follow him on Twitter at @TomLay810.