AUGUSTA, Ga. – Just who is the “ultimate guy” for 2016? Well, it could be Dr. Jedidiah Ballard, according to Men’s Health magazine.
Ballard, an an assistant professor of emergency medicine for the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, is one of three finalists in the magazine’s annual nationwide Men’s Health Ultimate Guy Search.
“I couldn’t sleep one night and was reading Men’s Health when I saw the ad,” said Ballard, who was intrigued, because it wasn’t just a fitness contest. “They were also looking at charitable work and other accomplishments.”
On a whim, he entered the contest, along with about 800 other men. To his amazement, he made it through several elimination rounds, landing in the 100 quarterfinalists, the 10 semifinalists, and the final three.
He’s undoubtedly fit. Take one look at him, and it’s obvious. A quick search on the internet will turn up a photo of a young Ballard sporting six-pack abs and a toned body in his late teens.
“I grew up pretty active,” said Ballard, 34, as he shared tales of running through the woods, chopping firewood, and helping his dad roof a house. He also played every sport offered in school, a common denominator when you grow up in a small town like Columbia Falls, Montana.
He’s fairly strong, too, which he proved recently by doing push-ups with one of his four brothers on his back. In a similar show of strength, he performed push-ups from a handstand position for the Men’s Health crew that visited Augusta to photograph him.
Along with eating a healthy diet, Ballard works out six days a week.
“I’m really balanced. I generally work with weights 2-3 days, and the rest is a random mix of activities.”
Whether in the gym, running, swimming, or playing sports, he’s always on the move. And, he’s just as ambitious in his professional pursuits.
Ballard majored in exercise science at the University of Northern Colorado in 2005. Next, he moved to Iowa, where he earned his doctorate in osteopathic medicine at Des Moines University in 2010. Then he came to the Medical College of Georgia.
“I did my residency here in emergency medicine, and half my class is still here, so I’ve made a lot of friends here,” he said.
Some of those friends were there when Ballard was on the winning four-man team in the 11th annual Southeast MedWAR, a medical wilderness competition in which the participants race through 15 miles of woodlands as their emergency medical skills are put to the test. Part of the race required a team member to ride a mountain bike while the others ran, and another leg involved paddling a canoe, and trudging knee-deep through a swamp.
“The course was pretty grueling, actually – a little more difficult than I thought it would be. But I had a great team, and it was an absolute blast!”
Ballard’s next competition took him to Fort Benning, Georgia, for U.S. Army Ranger School, an intense 61-day leadership course, where soldiers crawl, walk and run in preparation for combat. So demanding was the training that only 31 of 386 candidates made it through without remediation. Ballard was among the elite finishers. He went to Fort Lewis, Washington, to become the surgeon for the 2nd Ranger Battalion, a Special Operations Airborne Infantry unit and deployed to Afghanistan and Korea.
“Being an Army Ranger was really hard sometimes, but I gained life experience that I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere,” said Ballard, whose father served two tours in Vietnam. “Overall I feel very blessed I had the opportunity to serve my country in that manner.”
He returned to Augusta University last fall, where he recently completed a fellowship in ultrasound, an imaging technique that uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body.
“I use it to help confirm a diagnosis in the ER,” said Ballard, an assistant professor of emergency medicine. “I think it makes me a better doctor.”
That he gravitated to ultrasound is ironic, since he admits he’s no fan of technology.
“I have simple roots,” said Ballard. “I was born at home. I grew up without a television. I don’t like technology, but I also realize that we need it.”
Ultrasound technology helped him save the life of a patient in crisis with a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung). He also routinely uses it on shift at AU Medical Center to determine if a patient’s gall bladder has to be removed, or to assess the fetus in an early pregnancy.
“I have brief interactions in the ER, but they’re pretty deep,” he said. “It’s neat to intervene in someone’s life in such significant matters.”
He shares these experiences in the classroom on Fridays as an instructor to first- and second-year MCG students. In addition, his skill acquired in ultrasound has led to pro bono teaching assignments in Canada, Peru, and Panama.
“There’s a huge need for this kind of thing in other countries,” Ballard said. “I like seeing the world, and going places I’ve never been, but I’m also pretty cognizant of the opportunities we’ve been given in America,” he said, which inspires an obligation to give back.
Perhaps that’s why he’s found time over the years to dig ditches in Cambodia, help with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Louisiana, and volunteer with a burn camp for kids in Colorado.
“Just as fitness is an important part of my life, so is charity,” Ballard told Men’s Health editors in his contest entry, which is #697 on the magazine’s website.
If Ballard is selected as the “Ultimate Guy,” he will be featured on the cover of the November issue and make an appearance on national TV.
He’s hoping to win, but is content regardless.
“Honestly, I just enjoy life,” he said. “I legitimately like my job and the people I work with. I’m in a good spot.”