How Saint Leo's Biology Degree Program Has Helped 3 Brothers Soar
Meet the Brooks brothers who are all alumni of Saint Leo University's biology degree program and are flourishing in their own paths in the medical field.
Teresa and Richard Brooks might be among the proudest parents on the planet. Their three sons, each of whom graduated from Saint Leo University's biology degree program, are carving out their own successful paths in the health sciences field.
Brandon, Bradley, and Brady Brooks grew up in Land O'Lakes, FL. They each attended St. Anthony Catholic School in San Antonio, FL and graduated from Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, FL. Their mother, Teresa, works for the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs handling benefits and assistance. Their father, Richard, is an engineer with Florida Power and Light.
Brandon was born in Jacksonville, FL and is the eldest of the three brothers. The 32-year-old lives in Sumter, SC. He and his wife, Amanda, have two sons, three-year-old Levi and one-year-old Colton.
Brandon explains what led him to Saint Leo University for his undergraduate education.
"I always wanted a career in medicine," he says. "I applied to several schools but was really impressed by Saint Leo University and thought it was the best school I got into. It had everything I was looking for in a school. It gave me the best chance to succeed. I honestly didn't expect my brothers to follow in my footsteps by also attending Saint Leo."
He couldn't have been more satisfied with his decision to enroll in 2007.
"It was a very good experience," he says. "Saint Leo has quite a vibrant community. It's such a diverse school with students from all cultures."
For Brandon, chemistry professor Dr. Jerome Williams and Dr. Leo Ondrovic who taught physics had a very positive influence on him as an undergraduate student in the biology degree program.
In terms of extracurricular activities, he served as a senator for Imago Dei, a pro-life group on campus, as well as the TriBeta Biological Honor Society chapter.
In his words, responsible stewardship is the core value that has resonated with him most.
"I personally think it is the best Benedictine core value. It sums up what I thought it meant to be a biology degree major and to help make our world a better place for all living things. I also try to be responsible in the resources I use to help protect the environment."
He adds that personal development goes hand in hand with the university community.
"Saint Leo University is a wonderful place for growth and for people to develop as individuals to hone their identity. If you're uncertain about where to go for college, Saint Leo is definitely worth the chance and it's great to be a Saint Leo Lion."
Upon earning his biology degree in 2011, he moved to Miami Shores, FL to attend the Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine. He completed his foot and ankle surgery residency at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, GA where he served as the chief resident. He then did his fellowship training in public health & research and earned a Master of Public Health degree at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
"Out of all the schools, I still think Saint Leo is the best-looking school I've gone to in terms of the campus," he says.
He is now an associate podiatric surgeon on the staff at Physicians Footcare, the largest podiatric foot and ankle surgery practice in South Carolina. He also handles procedures at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital.
"I do both in-patient and out-patient surgeries," he says.
Brandon is a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association and the American Public Health Association. He adds that he and his two brothers recently co-authored a research paper. Entitled "Postoperative Opioid Prescribing Practice in Foot and Ankle Surgery." It was published in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association in March.
Brandon received Saint Leo University's Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2018. This is the highest award given out by the Saint Leo University Alumni Association and recognizes alumni who have achieved remarkable goals in their personal or professional life.
Born in Jacksonville like Brandon, Bradley is the middle brother. He explains why he and his brothers' names all start with 'B.'
"Our parents wanted to go for something simple and cute," he explains. "All of our middle names also start with 'M.'"
Now 30, Bradley embarked on his college career at Saint Leo in 2008.
"My advisor was Dr. Leo Ondrovic who I had for biology and physics," he recalls. "I also did supplemental instruction for one of his classes. He made a lasting impression on me."
Prof. Linda Bergen-Losee, another professor, helped him with his honors program presentation. He also did some research with Dr. Audrey Shor whom he says had a big impact on his higher education as a biology degree student as well.
"All of my professors were memorable to me and are intrinsically part of the reason for where I am today," he says. "You get to extensively work with them. They know who you are and recognize you. My professors knew what I was interested in and were there for me as mentors to help me achieve my goals. The small class sizes were a big reason for this."
In addition to the honors program, he was a member of TriBeta like his brother, Brandon.
"The bio people were my people," Bradley says with a smile. "We had many late-night sessions together in the library."
In terms of Saint Leo University's core values, he says excellence stood out to him.
"Excellence really stuck with me the most, especially when it came to academics. It's important to work hard to develop character, skills, and assimilate knowledge, especially in medicine."
After graduating from Saint Leo in 2013, he enrolled in medical school at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Upon completing this program, he matched at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL for his psychiatry residency.
"I'm in my fourth and final year of my residency. I'm currently the chief resident of my program. I'll be completing a fellowship in addictions following this year to further aid those who suffer from substance use disorders."
Once he finishes his lengthy academic journey, he says he could see himself working in a rural setting with a focus on both general psychiatry and addiction.
Bradly was the recipient of the 2020 Roaring Onward Award from Saint Leo University. This recognition celebrates outstanding alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years. Selections are based on professional success, contribution to one's community, and living the university's core values.
Brady, the youngest of the brothers, is 27 and was born in Columbia, SC. But like his brothers, he spent his formative years in the Sunshine State.
"We grew up on a lake and did lots of water sports like wakeboarding," he recalls.
He started his Saint Leo University journey in 2012. He completed the biology degree program in 2016 and walked at the commencement ceremony in the spring of 2017.
Brady says he enjoyed taking biology and genetics classes with Dr. Shor who also wrote him a letter of recommendation for medical school. Plus, he did some supplemental instruction for some of her courses. Dr. Darin Bell, a chemistry professor, was also very relatable.
"Dr. Bell is a big computer gamer, so we'd talk about gaming. He also wrote me a letter of recommendation."
Brady was also a member of the biology club.
As far as core values, community was the one that stood out to him.
"It was a smaller school, so I really got to know my professors and fellow students there. I absolutely loved and valued the sense of community."
He has some sound advice for anyone thinking about attending Saint Leo's University Campus.
"Get involved with scholarly activities," he advises. "I got to present some research I did with Dr. Shor at the Experimental Biology conference in Las Vegas. I was also inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I know that all of these unique opportunities helped me get into medical school."
No matter what a Saint Leo student may be interested in, he says to cherish the college journey.
"Really enjoy your time because it's a great campus with small, tight-knit classes and a great sense of community."
Along with his academic experience, he got a chance to volunteer in the radiology department at Moffitt Cancer Center.
Brady now resides in Somerset, KY where he is wrapping up medical school at the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine based at the University of Pikeville. He will embark on his residency in diagnostic radiology at the University of Kentucky this fall. His girlfriend, Madison, will also be attending there.
His ultimate goal is to work as a radiologist possibly in either Kentucky or Florida.
"My goal is to do my best to read patients' scans in order to ensure all of my patients get the best care they deserve."
On top of everything they have done academically and professionally, the Brooks brothers are proud to talk about their work with the McIntosh Society, a group whose goal is to preserve Native Floridian culture.
"My brothers and I are descended from the Tomoca (more commonly called Timucua), the largest ethnic group of indigenous peoples of the Floridian peninsula," Brandon says. "Our ancestral territory ranged from the northernmost part of Florida to the Saint Leo region."
An important cultural activity in this involvement is the annual Floridian Novena and celebration of Saint Brigid's Day, which is February 1st.
"This is our largest cultural celebration," he says. "We even make Saint Brigid's crosses on Saint Brigid's Eve on January 31. Everything is a buildup to Saint Brigid's Day."
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by the Brooks brothers and is used with permission.