Aaron Craft manages rigors of medical school through lessons learned on court

Ohio State medical student Aaron Craft doing clinical rotations in the hospital

Former Ohio State Buckeye basketball star Aaron Craft says medical school, much like basketball, requires hard work, dedication and the ability to learn from mistakes and move on. 

“Coach Matta taught us the ‘next play’ mentality, which also applies to medical school and life, really,” Craft says. “You can’t dwell on a mistake or let it affect what you do next.”

As a third-year medical student or M3, at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Aaron Craft’s game-day uniform now consists of either scrubs or his white coat, the length of which symbolizes a medical student’s year in school and their corresponding journey to achieve the long white coat when they are physicians.

Craft is in the thick of clinical rotations, putting learning from the lab and the lecture hall into practice caring for patients. He just began a neurology, brain and spine consultation, which will last two weeks before he cycles through more consultations in other area of medicine.

He begins each day with a handful of new cases, or patients, who he examines and then formulates ideas on the patient’s status, including diagnosis and treatment. Then he reports back to his attending and fellow students at table rounds where cases are discussed in great detail. The group then accompanies their attending physician on actual rounds in the hospital.

Ohio State medical student Aaron Craft doing clinical rotations in the hospital

“Clinical rotations drop you in situations where you’re not going to know the answers,” Craft says. “I developed the ability to handle uncertainty and grow and learn from it through basketball.”

Shooting for medical school was always in the plan for Craft

Craft’s passion for medicine began as a child. He loved math and science and the television medical drama “House.” As he progressed through his basketball career, becoming a four-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete and leading the Buckeyes to four NCAA Tournament appearances, medical school was always in the back of his mind.

“I was drawn to the problem-solving, synthesizing information and putting it all together,” Craft says. “I want to be more than a player that chased a ball. My goal is to help others and give back.”

Demicha Rankin, MD, associate professor of Anesthesiology and associate dean for Admissions, says the culture of support at Ohio State champions learners to become empathetic and compassionate leaders in medicine.

“Faculty and students are dedicated to helping each other succeed through mentorship and collaboration,” Dr. Rankin says. “We empower learners to envision the difference they can make while working to solve unrelenting medical and health care challenges.”

Ohio State medical student Aaron Craft working on a computer during patient rounds

Back in his basketball days, Craft used to visit patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, offering them a distraction and what he says he hopes was comfort.

Through an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Mentorship Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Craft has had the chance to examine pediatric patients and connect with them as part of a team of care providers. Charles Elmaraghy, MD, FACS, FAAP, professor of Otolaryngology at the Ohio State College of Medicine and chief of the department of Otolaryngology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, has served as Craft’s advisor for two years. Dr. Elmaraghy characterizes Craft as a high-energy student who is not a passive observer.

“From the first day in my clinic, he put on his headlight and was ready to see patients,” Dr. Elmaraghy says. “He seeks opportunities to improve and is very easy to teach.”

As an M3, Craft is also preparing applications for medical residency, the next step after graduation and where he’ll pursue a specialty and complete his journey to become a practicing physician. He’s strongly considering ENT.

Ohio State’s approach to medical school curriculum

“I’m really into the anatomy and pathology of the head and neck,” Craft says. “I like doing surgery and doing patient follow-ups in the clinic.”

Though he hasn’t stepped onto a basketball court in a while, Craft gets his steps in navigating back hallways and stairways on his way to examine patients. While he misses the culture of sports and the built-in camaraderie, he’s implemented his own version of the fist bump in the form of positive reinforcement among his peers, patients and educators.

“Grab onto what a patient is doing to be healthier and encourage them,” Craft says. “Tell a resident or fellow when they’ve explained something really well.”

Craft was inducted into Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022.

Read more about Aaron Craft’s medical school journey

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