Note: RGJ met with former Wolf Pack athletes who are now doctors or medical school to see how their athletic careers have helped shape their education. Here are three of their stories.

When playing football for Nevada, Dani Green learned about perseverance, being part of a team and working hard to try to achieve a goal.

Now, she is applying those same traits to her dream of becoming a doctor while helping young athletes who also aspire to work in the medical field.

Green, in his sophomore year at the University of Nevada, Reno Medical School, is launching a program to connect with Wolf Pack athletes who are studying pre-med.

Watching his classmates drop out due to academic difficulties made a big impression on Green and his medical schoolmate, Ariel Hierholzer.

“A lot of my teammates would start out as biology or pre-med students and then with all the demands on they would move on to something less difficult,” Green said.

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She said time management and discipline are important parts of being a student-athlete at a Division I school.

“All of these characteristics that have helped them be successful in competition can also be used if they want to become doctors,” Green said. “This is something we would have liked to have had when we were student-athletes, a mentor who could relate to us, who has been in our place before, to help us navigate this path to medicine.”

Hierholzer was a pole vaulter at UC Davis before he began medical school in Nevada.

Their program is called the “Medical Athlete Mentorship Program”.

They have been working on getting it up and running since last spring and hope that it will be fully operational by the spring semester of 2021.

“It’s something that we and Ariel are passionate about,” said Green. “It’s a challenge to balance school and sport. It’s really a challenge.”

University of Nevada Reno medical student Dani Green poses for a portrait in the William N. Pennington Health Sciences Building on September 29, 2020. Green played football for the Wolf Pack.

After graduating from undergrad, in 2014, Green returned home to Southern California, where she worked for an orthopedic practice and then as a paramedic. She went on a medical mission to Honduras.

“I wanted to make sure medicine was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.

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Playing soccer has helped her shape her mindset and the way she approaches challenges.

“Medical school is a different arena (than football), it’s more academic but the challenges are just as tough,” she said. “Playing football for the Wolf Pack has helped my mindset and the way I approach it. To persevere and work hard and what it means to accomplish something.”

She said going to school during a pandemic presents its own challenges. His classes are all online.

“Part of being a doctor is interacting with patients. When I applied to medical school, it wasn’t quite what I imagined would happen,” she said.

Phillip Hinojosa UNR Med School Class of 2018

Phillip Hinojosa played tennis in Bishop Manogue and Nevada and now makes his residency in Tennessee.

Phillip Hinojosa played tennis for Nevada and Bishop Manogue before that, completing his undergraduate studies in 2014.

He is working on his residence in Tennessee.

Hinojosa said playing sports in college helped him make the transition to medical school as he was already used to the early mornings and spending a lot of extra time.

“I know what it means to be up at six in the morning, to do conditioning, and now I’m up at six in the morning meeting patients,” he said. “An athlete suffers from mental exhaustion and physical exhaustion and you have to have that as a doctor.”

He said doctors need to be on call for 24 hours and function at a high standard, even when tired.

Hinojosa said he knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a doctor. Her father is a doctor and her mother is a nurse.

Playing tennis for the school in his hometown was also a goal.

“I have always been oriented towards science and mathematics,” he said. “It was my childhood dream to play top level tennis in Nevada. It means a lot to me to achieve my goals and to do so in my home state and city.”

Jacob Anderson UNR Medical School Class of 2016

Jacob Anderson played baseball in Galena and for a season in Nevada.

Jacob Anderson played baseball for one season in Nevada, as a freshman pitcher after graduating from Galena.

He went to an Alaskan minor league team in the summer after his first season and suffered a shoulder injury, ending his baseball career.

But this injury and the surgery that followed in 2010 piqued his interest in medicine.

“I always wanted to be a professional athlete, but looking back it was okay,” Anderson said. “It was a pretty cool journey to go from that (injury) to becoming a doctor. I’m glad it went well, but it was tough back then.”

Anderson, who is an anesthesiologist working in Washington, admits he wasn’t a good student in high school.

He said current athletes would be wise to study and work hard on their academics.

“That sporting gift will someday go away and you will only be left with schooling,” Anderson said.

He spent 10 to 12 hours a day studying during his first two years of medical school in Nevada.

Anderson said playing sports has helped him learn to keep his eyes on goal.

“You know you can’t stop and you have to do something at some point and a lot of people depend on you,” said Anderson, 30.

Galena pitcher Jacob Anderson throws against McQueen in May 2005.

The sport also helped him learn to be a team player. As an anesthesiologist, he works with surgeons and a team of nurses in the operating room.

Anderson said he has worked with several patients with COVID-19, which he says has dramatically changed the way hospitals are run.

“It’s a high risk, but there are a lot of good systems in place for us to get through it,” he said of COVID and the surgeries.

Jim Krajewski covers high school and youth sports for the Reno Gazette Journal. Follow him on twitter @RGJPreps. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.

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