News Article

The Heart of a Doctor

Alum Spearheads Kids Cancer Run

Brandon Gettleman, OCS Class of 2011, is a third-year medical student at the University of South Carolina, aspiring to be an orthopedic surgeon. But he isn’t waiting for a diploma or verified initials behind his name to start helping those with medical challenges. Despite an arduous class schedule and nighttime clinical rotations, he and fellow classmate, Kirklen Petersen, carved out time to organize Run with All Your Heart 5K which raised over $20,000 to fund children’s cancer research. 

He had applied for and was accepted into a medical leadership program which required a capstone project. While many fellow students were looking at public policy projects, Gettleman felt called to something more engaging and hands on. He reached out to Curing Kids Cancer, a national non-profit established in 2005 with over $21 million raised, to see if he could partner with them locally. The result was the 5K run with proceeds being used  in cancer therapeutics programs in Columbia. 

“If I was going to put time and effort, I wanted it to be something I found valuable and interesting,” he shared. “For me it was a way to be involved in the community, and something that could be impactful and continue on once I leave.” 

With over 100 runners, the October 2021 event included a silent auction and games for cancer patients and their families. Gettleman and Peterson enlisted the help of other medical students to organize, run the event and solicit donations and community sponsors.  

“I think the fact that this event was started by medical students who are quite busy to begin with, made the (cancer) families especially appreciative and for me that it made it quite rewarding,” he said.  

While the inaugural event was successful, Gettleman isn’t resting on his laurels. Echoing the mantra of minds for leadership and hearts for service, he wants to pass on the mantle to underclassmen who can continue with the 5K run after he graduates from medical school.  

“We are working on making it an annual event and so what we are doing is looking at first year medical students, for two people who can head it up while we provide leadership, oversight and training next year.” 

In addition to being the co-founder of the Curing Kids Cancer Young Professionals Group, he is also the president of his school's Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Interest Group this year.

Those early leadership seeds, and even an interest in medicine, were already germinating while he was a student at Oaks Christian School. It wasn’t until he got to college that he solidified his pre-med major, but he always had a natural gravitation to the sciences and felt at home in anatomy and physiology with Dr. Jay Bayles. 

“I don’t know that I had it all figured out at that point in high school, but those classes and time spent with Dr. Bayles, who was also my football coach, provided me a direction I later pursued.” 

“In fact, a lot of leadership and life skills came from my football coaches, Clay Matthews, and Coach Richards. I nearly gave that man a few heart attacks. I got him pretty riled up. But they saw something in me. There are things I still carry with me because of what they said to me when I was a sophomore or a junior that have helped me tremendously,” he shared. 

Being a medical student has given him a deeper appreciation of the academic preparedness Oaks Christian provided, but in hindsight he also values being in a community that cared for the whole person. 

“Of course, the academics were outstanding, but when I look back at my time at Oaks, the thing that I got the most from it was seeing people go out of their way to love and care. It made me realize how fortunate I was.”