Ethan Ruhland: Medicine Man
By Rachel English, Michigan State Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant
Going into his final year as a member of the Michigan State football team, Ethan Ruhland has worked hard both on and off the field. Ruhland is an offensive lineman for the Spartans and in the classroom studies pre-med with a major in human biology.
While currently applying to medical schools throughout the country, Ruhland - a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection - hopes to get into Michigan State's program and begin classes in the fall of 2013. The D.O., Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, program at MSU is one of the top in the country and is the number one medical school to produce the most primary care residents.
Although Ruhland has been exposed to M.D.'s, Doctors of Medicine, and D.O's throughout his lifetime, he has taken more of an interest in becoming a DO because of the philosophy.
"A D.O. has a more holistic and whole body approach to healing," said Ruhland. "You want to treat the problem the person has, but on top of that see where they are mentally, physically, and spiritually. You want them to be healthy as a whole person not just get one problem fixed. To be healthy in sports you have to focus on everything, not just the current pain."
Most of the sports medicine staff at Michigan State is composed of D.O.'s., including Dr. Doug Dietzel, the team orthopedic surgeon, who Ruhland shadowed at times to learn about the profession and the philosophy. He has an appreciation and an interest in both orthopedics and neurology currently.
"Orthopedics peak my interests and as a bigger guy it makes sense for me to be moving bones," said Ruhland, who stands 6-5 and is 290 pounds. "Orthopedic surgery also is what I see a lot from being an athlete. Neurosurgery I think is amazing. It is a pretty divine thing to be honest, that the brain and spinal cord control the entire body."
Football has had an influence on Ruhland's career choice through the surgeries, training, and practices impact on his body. With a mom who is a surgical nurse, he has been around medicine and dreamed of becoming a doctor since a young age.
"Growing up I always preferred science and math," said Ruhland on his career aspirations. "I like to pick stuff apart and understand how things work. The field of medicine interested me because of how the body works as well as that I want to help people and give them a better quality of life."
Ruhland also is considering a future in athletics. He admires Dr. Dietzel's career and how he's able to have his own practice as well as work with an athletic program. After being around football for so long, it is such a large part of his life and could be difficult to give up.
"Being around football gives me the knowledge to know the difference between a bump, bruise, and when something is really wrong," said Ruhland. "I see what we go through and what the staff around us does to try and keep us healthy. I've had injuries and know what athletes go through, as they want to be back playing as soon as they can. In the process though you have to stay smart."
A 2008 graduate from Lake Orion High School, Ruhland played tackle; however, he was recruited to Michigan State as a guard before becoming a center. He started in last season's victory against Minnesota and helped the Spartans to a 31-24 victory over the Gophers.
As a senior, Ruhland also works to be a leader for his fellow teammates because of his love for the game and his fellow players.
"I feel like I have a lot of responsibility," said Ruhland on being one of the oldest on the team. "As a senior I need to step up and lead the team when things are easy or hard. It's easy to be the guy who hoots and hollers when things are easy, but sometimes you need to be the teammate who says we need to do this or that and get things done out there."
With a busy training and practice schedule, juggling his aspirations in football and in medicine can be difficult. Through the Smith Center he has an academic advisor to help schedule classes around practice and tutors available if needed.
"I have a lot of support around me," said Ruhland. "My teammates will probably end up as my clients. They always ask if I'll fix them up when they get old. Sometimes if I mess up on a play the team gives me a hard time and makes jokes about how I'm supposed to be smart enough for med school."
After Ruhland suits up in the Green and White for his final season this fall, he will graduate in the spring and continue pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor.
But there's a good chance Ruhland could be on the sidelines again helping out a team in the future - just in a different capacity.
"From a coaching or doctor standpoint I always want to be part of football," said Ruhland. "I look forward to it after this season after hopefully helping the team become Big Ten Champions."
This story was first published in the Aug. 31 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.
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