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Former JCSU student-athlete on track to become a doctor

Andrew Alexander ’15Charlotte, N.C. / June 22, 2020 - “I couldn't have made a better decision,” said Andrew Alexander ’15 while reflecting on his journey at Johnson C. Smith University. “I was very happy with the idea of being able to go to college, an HBCU at that, in the city of Charlotte that's close to my family so they can watch me play.”

At the end of his senior year at Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, N.C., the quarterback met with football recruits from JCSU by chance. “At the time, I was really close with one of the school security guards. He told the Smith recruits they should check me out. I let them see my highlight film and next thing I know I was being offered a scholarship,” he said. The moment changed his life forever.

Alexander, already knew he wanted to follow the example of his older brother and enter the medical field. It earned him a nickname from his coaches.

“They called me Dr. Drew from the day I walked on the field because I told him I wanted to be a doctor. They never doubted my dreams and they pushed me to be the best,” Alexander added.

During his time at JCSU, Alexander also took up track. Being on a two-sport student-athlete was demanding for the young biology major, but not impossible. “It was Smith that gave me the tools for a solid foundation so that I had the knowledge and work ethic in me to succeed in medical school. They gave me the opportunity to play sports, which is something I wanted to do, but I think the bigger picture was that I was able to balance playing sports and schoolwork while trying to excel in both.”

Andrew Alexander ’15

As the son of Jamaican immigrants, Alexander saw firsthand what hard work looks like. “They came here and really just worked their tails off to make sure that they had a viable future,” he emphasized. He never forgot how hard they worked for their success, and was determined to do the same.

Alexander is now preparing for his residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill in spring 2020. It's a specialty that focuses on maximizing patients' day-to-day function in their environment. “We work a lot with patients who've had some type of traumatic brain, spinal cord, or musculoskeletal injury that’s impeding them from living their independent autonomous lifestyle. We manage their medical problems while trying to maximize the functional problems,” he explained.

Alexander is passionate about serving people with disabilities, but hopes to one-day help athletes too. “I plan on specializing in sports later down the line when the time comes,” he added.

In July, Alexander will begin his residency at Moses H. Cone Hospital in Greensboro, N.C. for one year. Alexander’s final three years of residency will be completed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which he never imagined would happen. “I'm still in disbelief that an institution like that wants me, but I'm so happy.”

Following graduation, Alexander pinned an open letter to Facebook, thanking his village of supporters, including his family, fiancée, friends and line brothers of the Durham Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. “Medical school can be difficult, but they've been nothing but supportive and just spoke success into my life.” 

JCSU laid the foundation for Alexander’s success, and for that, he is forever grateful. He said attending an HBCU helped develop him into a successful Black man. “Going to an HBCU really cemented my belief that it was okay to be me. It helped me be comfortable in my skin as a Black man in America.” In addition, University faculty, staff and coaches pushed him to success. “They genuinely wanted me to succeed from day one.” He hopes current students take advantage of the mentorship and support JCSU provides to students. 

Alexander enjoys mentoring others and sharing his success story. Although it wasn’t easy to attain, the long nights were well worth it. “I want people to know my story because it shows that with hard work anything is attainable.”

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