Rural Community Health Scholar, Former UA Football Player Heads to Orthopedic Surgery Residency

June 8, 2021

By Caleb Jones

Growing up, Dr. Jared Watson fantasized along with his twin brother Jeremy that they would one day be “football-playing doctors, in space.” Now, as a former University of Alabama football player and UAB School of Medicine Class of 2021 graduate, it’s safe to say that at least two of those aspirations have been achieved.

Watson was born in 1991 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (just one minute before his twin brother, Jeremy) to Bruce and Sandra Watson. He and Jeremy are the youngest of eight siblings, five girls and three boys.

Both Jared and Jeremy completed undergraduate degrees at UA and then were selected as Rural Community Health Scholars, a program operated by UA’s College of Community Health Sciences. They went on to earn master’s degrees in Rural Community Health at UA before heading to medical school.

Jared Watson graduated from the UAB School of Medicine May 22. Soon he’ll depart for the University of California, Davis, where he matched into the orthopaedic surgery residency, for the next five years of his training. His brother graduated from Howard University College of Medicine and will be doing an orthopaedic surgery residency at Nassau University Medical Center in New York.

“I entered medical school with the aspirations of becoming an orthopaedic surgeon,” Jared Watson said. “I always loved anatomy, and even spent time in an exercise physiology lab during my gap year before medical school. I think the most influential factor in my decision to pursue this specialty was my own experience as an athlete. After my first season on the team at Alabama, I required a procedure for a sports hernia. I suffered through most of the season with it. I was blown away by how quickly I was able to return to my peak performance. I wanted to be able to help patients get back to doing the things they enjoyed the most.”

After graduating from Tuscaloosa County High School as student athletes, Watson and his brother decided to try out for the UA football team. However, the experience proved to be challenging, and the twins were ultimately cut.

“We graduated high school very undersized and unpolished, but had our minds made up to give it a try. It was a grueling seven-to-eight months. Even as a walk-on, there is no difference in what is expected from you. Day after day you’re competing with the best of the best. It’s not a glorious job but being a part of such a special group is something I’ll cherish forever. It was honestly really challenging to get over that feeling of being cut. They went on to win a championship that year, and even as happy as we were for it, it still was a tough pill to swallow.”

Despite the disappointment they felt in initially being cut, the twins let those feelings fuel them.

“It was always a dream of ours to play at Alabama,” Watson said. “Instead of giving up, we used that feeling of being cut to fuel every workout and film session. We came to tryouts the next year 40 pounds heavier and were smarter and overall better athletes. We went on to win a championship that year as well. The entire experience taught us a valuable lesson in resilience. It’s served me well in so many aspects of life, including maneuvering the highs and lows of medical school.”

Many of those “highs and lows” weren’t even related to his academics, Watson said.

“During my MS1 year, I lost a nephew to a heart condition. During my first rotation of MS3 year, my family lost our home to a fire. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by family, classmates and faculty that I could lean on whenever I needed them.”

As Watson looks forward to his career in orthopaedic surgery, he’s eager to see what the future holds.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to make a positive impact on my future patients’ lives. I hope that by helping restore their function, patients will be able to have happier, healthier lives.”

Watson said he is also passionate about the chance to be a mentor. “My twin brother and I are the first doctors in our family,” Watson said. “Our paths to careers in medicine were challenging at times, and I hope to provide guidance to any students that I can help. I also hope to become heavily involved in the community I serve. There are many disparities within the field of orthopaedics, and I hope to address those during my time practicing medicine.”

As for the interstellar portion of the football playing doctors’ dream, Watson said that part is still up in the air. “I think we’re pretty content with two out of three, but who knows what the future holds? Maybe SpaceX will take off and it’ll be something to consider further.”