Olympic Knights: Ricardo’s Road to Rio

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By Jenna Marina

Orlando, Fla. — If anyone knows the true meaning of “timing is everything,” it is UCF alumnus Ricardo Gouveia ’14. By qualifying for the Summer Olympics in Rio, the former men’s golf standout will be part of history as the sport returns to the Games after a 112-year hiatus.

Golf was first played at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, only to be removed after 1904. It was voted back in seven years ago by the International Olympic Committee, setting in motion Gouveia’s road to Rio where he will represent his home country of Portugal.

“It feels great,” Gouveia told UCFKnights.com. “It’s one of those sporting events that you dream to be a part of at least once in your life. It’s going to be special being in Rio where the native language is Portuguese.”

Gouveia is one of threRicardo-tweete UCF alumni who will participate in the Olympics this year. He along with Aline Reis ’11 (Brazil, soccer) are making their first Olympic Games appearances while 2008 gold medalist Phil Dalhausser ’02 (USA, beach volleyball) is set for his third and potentially final appearance.

Gouveia was a two-time all-region and All-America honorable-mention honoree as a Knight from 2011-14. He turned pro after graduating with a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a business administration minor.

“The whole experience that I had at UCF was crucial to reach the level of play and the stability that I have right now,” he told UCFKnights.com. “I learned so much from a lot of people while attending school. I can’t thank them enough.”

Gouveia competed in his first PGA event in 2016 when he was invited to join the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla.

He is ranked 34th of the 60-man field. Gouveia will tee off Aug. 11-14 on the Olympic Golf Course. The opening ceremony is slated for Friday, Aug. 5, and the Games last until Aug. 21.

These Guys Know what they Want for Christmas

A group of UCF student-athletes is spreading Christmas cheer with the help of Mariah Carey, some jolly dance moves, and a video that’s making its way around the Internet.

When seven Knights, including four UCF cheerleaders and a former UCF baseball player who met through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, posted the above video to YouTube, they had no idea it would attract more than 20,000 views in less than a week!

“We honestly just wanted to make a fun Christmas video for something to look back at when we have kids one day, and be like, ‘Hey, look, your dad was cool!'” explains UCF junior Joshua Gicker. “We’re all single, so, maybe before it’s over, we could meet our future wives through this!”

Guess you never know! Happy holidays, Knights!

This information was originally published Dec. 10, 2015, by Brigitte Snedeker on KnightNews.com. It has been edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original post.

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Distinguished Alumnus Award

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The UCF Alumni Association presented its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award to Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, ’01.
Alex was unable to accept his award in person due to an NBA owners’ meeting in New York.
(PHOTO: UCF Today)
Alex Martins, ’01 | CEO, Orlando Magic

The UCF Alumni Association honored Alex Martins with its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest annual accolade given to a UCF graduate, in recognition of his career achievements, at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

With 25 years in professional sports management, Alex rejoined the Magic in June 2005 and was promoted to CEO in December 2011. He previously served as president for more than a year, and was the team’s chief operating officer from 2006-2010.

As CEO, he led the development of Orlando’s state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena, working tirelessly for eight years with community leaders on the massive project, which has been ranked one of the best of its kind in the world. During the same time period, the business of the Orlando Magic thrived, building the largest season ticket base in franchise history, and setting countless new records for sales.

Alex has also given much of his time and energy to serving his alma mater since graduating with his master’s degree from the UCF College of Business Administration, currently as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Counsel for the college, and as chairman of the critical Finance and Facilities Committee for UCF’s Board of Trustees. He was inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame in 2008, and was honored that same year with the opportunity to serve as a summer commencement speaker.

Learn more about Alex:

UCF Student-Athletes Crush the Competition

UCF Football, Men’s Basketball, Softball earn AAC Team Academic Excellence Awards

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By Andy Seeley
UCFKnights.com

UCF student-athletes are continuing to excel in the classroom, as well as in competition. Three Knights programs were honored Tuesday, July 28, as the American Athletic Conference announced its Team Academic Excellence Awards for 2014-15.

The American Athletic Conference Team Academic Excellence Awards recognize the team in each conference sport with the highest GPA for that academic year. UCF’s football, men’s basketball and softball programs each earned that distinction this year.

“I’m very proud of our student-athletes for their hard work and success in the classroom,” interim Director of Athletics George O’Leary said. “We have a culture of academic success at UCF.”

For Coach O’Leary’s football program, it marks the fourth straight season the Knights have been honored as the best academic team in their conference. The Knights have brought home the Team Academic Excellence Award twice in the two-year existence of the American Athletic Conference. In addition to the last two AAC honors, the football program also brought home the Conference USA Sport Academic Award in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

The Knights are the two-time defending American Athletic Conference champions on the gridiron to go along with the Academic Team Excellence Awards.

Head coach Renee Luers-Gillispie led her softball squad to a school-record 50 wins last season. The Knights were the American Athletic Conference Champions in both the regular season and postseason tournament and advanced to the NCAA Regional Final. The Black and Gold accomplished those feats while also fielding the strongest academic squad in the conference.

Meanwhile, men’s basketball head coach Donnie Jones leads a squad that posted a school-record Academic Progress Rate score in the most recent NCAA release, to go along with his team’s AAC Team Academic Excellence Award.

Academic accolades have become the norm at UCF.

As a department, the Knights rank No. 1 in the nation in NCAA Graduation Success Rate among all public institutions. At 95 percent in the most recent GSR report, UCF trails only private institutions Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke and Northwestern. The Knights’ GSR is 11 points above the national average. UCF’s football, volleyball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer and rowing programs are all tops among The American in Graduation Success Rate.

In the most recent NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) report, the Knights improved for the 10th consecutive year. Two Knights programs — volleyball and women’s tennis — have had multiple perfect scores in APR, while the department average of 981 is a school record. Twelve of the Knights’ 16 sports are at or above the national average for APR.

This story was posted July 28, 2015, on UCFKnights.com. It has been slightly edited in accordance with alumni association style guidelines. See original article.

From Unemployment to Celebrity Weddings and Professional Sports

UCF Rosen College alumna Jennifer Garcia, '09, recently returned to her alma mater to offer career advice to students.
Rosen College alumna Jennifer Garcia, ’09, returned to her alma mater to offer career advice to students.

By Michael Weiss

Internships with the Vans Warped Tour, the Starbucks VIA Taste Tour, and Super Bowl XVIII appeared to place former event management and hospitality management double major Jennifer Garcia’s, ’09, career trajectory on a crash course with success after college. However, after Garcia initially graduated from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, the alumna couldn’t even find employment as a hostess due to the economic recession in the United States.

Fast forward nearly four years later, when Garcia returned to her alma mater to inspire current hospitality students with her story of resiliency, as she went from unemployed college grad to assisting with multi-million dollar celebrity weddings and now a new career in professional sports.

“After I graduated, I wanted to work in the event industry,” Garcia said. “I was applying everywhere, but, at the time, everyone was cutting back and I literally couldn’t even get hired as a hostess. It was extremely discouraging, considering that I just graduated from a prestigious hospitality college and had such great internship experience. But, I refused to give up on my career. When you give up, you’re giving your opportunity away to someone else.”

Garcia’s relentless pursuit of employment eventually paid off after months of job hunting, when in January 2010, she was hired by a Miami-based event designer.

“I ended up getting hired by Nuage Designs, where I began working in luxury weddings,” Garcia recalled. “I didn’t realize the experience that I would be gaining from this job until one day, my boss put me on a plane to New York, where I found myself delivering table linens for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.”

Over the course of her three and a half years of employment with Nuage Designs, Garcia opened an office in New York, created partnerships for destination weddings, and assisted with several celebrity nuptials, including Grammy Award-winner Carrie Underwood and reality TV star Kim Zolciak, whose wedding appeared on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

“I learned a lot from this job opportunity, but I knew I needed to leave the wedding industry to chase my dream job,” Garcia said. “My goal is to one day become the events director for the NFL.”

Garcia again faced adversity in finding employment, as many professional sports recruiters refused to hire her, as she had no previous professional experience within the industry.

“It was extremely frustrating,” Garcia said. “How was I supposed to start gaining industry experience when no one was willing to hire a person without previous experience?”

But, again, Garcia refused to give up on her goal, as the alumna continued to submit her resume and attend networking functions.

Her resiliency paid off again, as the alumna ultimately received job offers from at least two professional sports teams, and recently accepted a position with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, as a group sales manager.

“I came back to Rosen to speak with students about facing adversity,” Garcia said. “I know that some of these students will face the same employment challenges that I did and I wanted to tell them what happens when you don’t give up.”

See original story on UCF Today.

Rosen College Alumna to Lead Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce

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By Kathy Dorf
Rosen College Public Relations

At just 30 years old, UCF graduate Katie Worthington, ’05, will be the new chief executive of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, bringing a fresh perspective to a budding area of Central Florida. Like most success stories, Worthington’s was neither predictable nor planned, but for her, it started at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

After graduating from Rosen College with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, Worthington left her job working at the front desk of the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, a hotel she helped open, and relocated to Polk County. After brief stints in financial services working for State Farm Insurance and SunTrust Bank, she spent several years as the director of reception, public relations and customer service for a local medical clinic.

In 2011, she joined Clark/Nikdel/Powell , an integrated marketing strategy firm located in Winter Haven, where she currently serves as media and account director for clients such as Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing, the Central Florida Development Council, Enterprise Florida and Fantasy of Flight. She also volunteers for various community organizations, including the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, founded the Winter Haven Young Professionals Group, organized the first Polk Emerging Leaders awards ceremony and received the 2013 Leadership Winter Haven Distinguished Alumnus Award.

“Because I’m a tourism nerd, I tried to get involved in anything I could do volunteer-wise within my clients’ business areas, the Chamber of Commerce and economic development,” Worthington said. “Over about six or seven years, I did of a lot of volunteering and became very familiar with the Chamber and all of Polk County.”

As her local reputation and professional brand grew, people started to take notice of Worthington’s talents and passion. When current Chief Executive Bob Gernert decided to retire after a 17-year career that saw CSX and Legoland Florida arrive in Winter Haven, she was encouraged to apply. Following a national search, Worthington was named to lead the Chamber on January 17, 2014, and will officially assume the role on March 1.

Worthington credits her education and experience at Rosen College for making her well-rounded in various aspects of business, including customer service, operations, marketing and public relations, a foundation that translates across industries. She also benefited from learning about the economic impact of tourism and how it can transform communities.

“I think having that holistic view of the economic impact of tourism is probably what’s prepared me most,” she said. “I think of restaurant management and even thought I never wanted to own a restaurant, knowing the challenges of running one makes me much more prepared since many of the chamber members are small business, family-owned restaurants. I certainly have an appreciation for them since I had to come up with a business plan for a restaurant, do a financial analysis and learn about operations in class.”

Worthington hopes to guide Winter Haven through what she calls a pivotal point in the city’s history as community leaders work to formulate a strategic plan for the future. She points to Winter Haven’s strengths as both a tourism and residential destination with its traditions, natural assets and potential to attract young professionals to live and work.

As she reflects on the journey to her new leadership post, she advises students to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible whether it’s through volunteering, shadowing professionals, doing internships or getting involved in student organizations. Also, never underestimate the value of hospitality education to various industries.

“A hospitality management degree is, in my opinion, great because it teaches you the business element as well as customer service, public relations and marketing,” she said. “There’s an emphasis on customer service, which in reality, is the real reason businesses succeed, no matter what industry you’re in.”

See original story on UCF Today.

Oviedo Native Makes UCF Baseball Team after Helping Alumna Mom Battle through Breast Cancer

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By UCF Athletics

She calls it the “scream heard around the world.”

UCF led 17-2 against Presbyterian on March 22, when the Knights’ No. 12 came up to the plate as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Big picture, this one at-bat would go down as a 10-word blip toward the end of the game story.

But for the Bates family, this moment was six months in the making.

After Oviedo native Sam Bates gave up his guaranteed spot offering from a Division II baseball team to stay at home and help care for his mother through chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer, he successfully walked on to UCF’s nationally ranked squad.

Now, here he was with a chance to register his first career hit with the Knights.

First pitch: Ball. Next two: Fouled off. Organ music pumped over the loud speaker. Then came an off-speed pitch and the ping of ball meeting bat. After that, the sound of his mother’s high-pitched “Aaahhh!” was followed by a giddy laugh as Sam dashed down the line safely to first base.

“It’s just so nice to finally see when you work so hard for something that sometimes it happens,” Mary Lou Bates said, while trying to hold back tears. “And, it happened for him.”

Mary Lou Bates and her husband, Chris, met at a local church as high schoolers. They both attended UCF — she was an education major, he, computer science — and married six weeks after graduation. The couple settled into a housing development called Stillwater, just two miles from the heart of UCF’s campus.

Their son Danny arrived first, and five years later came Sam. Like any little brother, Sam wanted to do what his big brother did. That meant baseball.

Sam started as a 4 year old with his father as the head coach of his Little League team. The family members were regulars in the stands at UCF cheering for the black and gold during the next decade of Sam’s life.

“He was the kid that was running the bases afterwards. He was the kid holding up his baseball trying to get it signed. He was that kid,” his mother said. “Baseball has always been his passion.”

While Sam always dreamed of attending UCF, he thought he had a better chance to continue playing baseball at a smaller program after he graduated from Hagerty High School. So he headed to Daytona State College, where he was a starter for two years and was named the 2014 Baseball Student-Athlete of the Year.

Around the time Sam was looking into schools following his junior college stint, doctors informed Mary Lou that she had a small, malignant tumor in her breast.

“It seemed like every test I had,” she said, “more bad news would come.”

An MRI showed another tumor on the other side of the same breast. It also revealed that cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

Her original course of action — a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation — now turned into a double mastectomy, radiation and five months of chemotherapy along with a five-year maintenance drug.

Sam turned down a guaranteed spot with Florida Tech’s program and decided to stay home to help with his mother’s treatment.

“I was hoping he wasn’t doing it just for me. He was,” she said. “Of course, I felt badly about that, but it was his decision. We kept asking him, `Are you sure you want to do this?’ He said, `You know I’ve always wanted to go to UCF.'”

So, he stayed by her side, supplying the fix of her new addiction, Coca-Cola Slurpees, and preparing meals for her. When she decided to go to Eden Spa at Florida Hospital to have her head shaved, Sam and his friends shaved their heads in support.

Between her husband and two sons’ shifts, Mary Lou was never alone.

“Seeing her go through chemo was tough, but she was a warrior about it. She kept me going,” Sam said of the walk-on process. “You don’t know. Am I going to get cut today? Should I just quit? And seeing her not quit chemo really helped me out.”

Sam started classes in fall 2014 and, after earning a spot with the club baseball team, attended walk-on tryouts for UCF Baseball on Sept. 15. Five ground balls, 10 swings and a 60-yard dash.

“There was a lot of pressure on those five ground balls and those 10 swings,” he said.

Head Coach Terry Rooney said Sam’s qualities as an infielder, a left-handed hitter and an experienced player thanks to his junior college years are what initially caught the staff’s attention. A day later, they called Sam while he was at home to tell him they wanted him to stick around for further evaluation.

Sam’s spot on the team wasn’t official — it would be another 135 days until that happened — but for now, he had made the cut.

Sam went into his parents’ room where he found his mother in her walk-in closet. She started to cry when he told her his news and enveloped him into a hug. He said it was the happiest he had seen her in the previous three months.

Rooney said as the weeks went on, the coaching staff was taken by Sam’s love of the game, his work ethic and infectious positive attitude.

“You could just tell that not only was he a good player, but he loved being around the guys and being a part of UCF baseball,” Rooney said. “That was something that was really important [to us].”

The coaching staff and team didn’t learn until Jan. 29, along with the rest of the world via Twitter, of the Bates’ saga:

“In the last 8 months my mom has found out she had cancer, has had 3 surgeries and 16 chemo sessions and now I get to go home and tell her I’m a UCF baseball player! Nothing beats that feeling!”

By Sam’s standards, the tweet went viral, with 58 retweets and another 179 favorites.

His parents attend games rain or shine. Sam leaves tickets for his older brother — also a UCF alumnus — at will call every night. His father, who works on Research Parkway, drives through campus every day right by the baseball stadium where his son now plays for the hometown team.

The ball Sam hit is stashed in his room. (Although the ball stayed in play immediately after Sam’s base hit, senior JoMarcos Woods was able to keep an eye on it until he could snatch it up and hand it to his teammate.)

Sam describes the past several months as a dream come true. Sam’s family and friends are overjoyed that he suits up for not only their favorite team, but a team that reached its highest national ranking in school history this season.

The experience reaffirms to him that his faith helped him to never lose sight of his path.

“This is where I’m supposed to be right now in this moment. I know it. I can feel it,” Sam said. “And, maybe my mom getting cancer in some weird way down the road led me to my dream. And, her dream was for me to follow my dreams. It’s just cool how all that stuff works out.”

Alumnus Texas Instruments Executive Meets with Student-Athlete Engineers He’s Committed to Support

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By Zack Thomas
Managing Editor, UCF Foundation

“I know what it takes to be a student-athlete and an engineer,” said Brian Crutcher, ’95, speaking last week with a group of UCF student-athletes majoring in engineering. “I know athletes are competitive. Really competitive. You don’t go out there to be second, third or fourth. You want to win. And we need that exact same trait in the business world.”

Crutcher, who played defensive back for the Knights while pursuing his electrical engineering degree and now serves as executive vice president of business operations for Texas Instruments, was on campus to help lay the groundwork for the College of Engineering and Computer Science Student Athletes Program. The program will help student-athlete engineering majors like Crutcher persevere through a curriculum that is rigorous even without the added demands of being an athlete. Crutcher has committed $200,000 over the next five years through his Crutcher Family Fund to support the program.

His ultimate intent, Crutcher says, is to ensure that students like him realize their engineering career goals and then carry forward into the workplace the leadership and teamwork skills — and, of course, competitiveness — that are second nature in sports. Despite UCF’s heavy emphasis on academic achievement for student-athletes — the university’s graduation rate for student-athletes is No. 1 in the nation among NCAA Division I public institutions — engineering majors frequently switch to less demanding disciplines during their first two years. The new program will focus specifically on shoring up math support to freshman and sophomore CECS student-athletes and providing one-on-one graduate advisor tutoring and mentoring.

Crutcher spent more than an hour with the student-athletes, recalling the challenges he had faced, listening to theirs, and answering a flood of questions about applying and interviewing for jobs and life in the professional world. His core message was a simple one though: “Don’t quit. I guarantee you it will be worth it.”

Local Company Supports UCF’s Athletes with Annual Breakfast Fundraiser

Pat Clark (left), WESH 2 sports anchor, and Belvin Perry, personal-injury attorney and former chief judge in Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit, joined Knightro and two of UCF's cheerleaders for the annual MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast on April 29.
Pat Clarke (left), WESH 2 sports anchor, and Belvin Perry, personal-injury attorney and former chief judge in Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, joined Knightro and UCF Cheerleaders for the annual MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast on April 29. (Photo: RF Photography)

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Wealth management firm Moreno, Peelen, Pinto & Clark hosted its second MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast on Wednesday, April 29, to help raise money toward an academic support center for UCF athletes.

Four of the five partners in the firm are UCF alumni, including Christina Pinto, ’86; Lisa-Moreno Haramboure, ’89; Tony Moreno Jr., ’91, who also serves on the UCF Foundation Board of Directors; and Rob Clark, ’94. The firm’s other partner, Scott Peelen, graduated from Michigan State, but he was easily adopted as a member of their UCF family, especially since his daughter, Sarah, is a current UCF student, and he attends all of the football games.

The breakfast took place at the Alfond Inn in Winter Park, with many prominent community figures in attendance — including members of the UCF Board of Trustees, UCF Foundation Board of Directors and UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, as well as Orange County commissioners, current and former mayors, and one of the forefathers of UCF, Charlie Gray.

Knightro and some of the UCF Cheerleaders kicked off the morning with a cheer, followed by opening remarks from Peelen. WESH 2 Sports Anchor Pat Clarke hosted the remainder of the event, reminiscing about when UCF’s football program first started, and how he used to be able to park his Mustang under the Citrus Bowl stands. He commended then-Coach Gene McDowell on taking the program from Division II to Division I-AA, as well as current Head Coach George O’Leary on his “culture of winning” and “culture of learning.” He concluded with a video showcasing this season’s UCF Football’s key players before introducing Todd Stansbury, UCF’s athletic director, who stepped in to speak for O’Leary, who had to cancel his appearance due to a minor medical issue.

“When George meets with recruits,” Stansbury said, “he only guarantees them one thing — that they’ll graduate. He demands excellence, and that’s what he gets.”

In fact, UCF is No. 3 in the nation for graduating 90 percent of its football players, and is No. 1 in the nation for graduating 95 percent of all its student-athletes combined.

“A lot of people think we’re in the entertainment business,” Stansbury continued. “We’re really in the education business. Our mission is to provide opportunity to young people and develop future leaders. Our job is to use sport to prepare them to compete.”

While there were plenty of laughs, including an anecdote from Clarke about Peelen’s former reporting skills, the morning was really about supporting UCF’s athletes and their academic endeavors. Moreno, Peelen, Pinto & Clark pledged to match gifts up to the first $10,000 raised.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is the quality of the students graduating from UCF,” Moreno Jr. says. “In fact, we just hired another UCF alumnus through the internship program. We’re very proud of the high ranking UCF maintains for graduating athletes.”

Want to help make the academic support center a reality? Contact Chris Huff, associate athletics director of development and executive director of the Golden Knights Club, at [email protected] or 407.823.2205.

See highlights from the MPC UCF Touchdown Breakfast:

Making Strides

Alumnus doctor helps professional athletes get back on their feet

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Dr. Gideon Lewis, ’00 | Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Surgeon

By Daniela Marin

Dr. Gideon Lewis, ’00, stood before an audience of thousands of UCF graduates and their families, as the keynote speaker at UCF’s spring 2014 commencement, where he shared his accomplishments since he donned his own cap and gown, and divulged the philosophy that helped him reach them.

“I still stand by my words that the two most valuable assets in life are relationships and experiences,” he says. “Looking back at my journey, these priceless things are what I’ve built my entire career around.”

In his private practice as a double board-certified reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon, Lewis specializes in sports medicine, treating professional athletes, like Olympic gold medalist sprinter Justin Catlin, Hall of Fame water skier and X-Game gold medalist Ron Scarpa, and Canadian pro football player Keron Williams.

“I’ve always had the desire and dream of establishing a sports medicine practice working with the world’s top athletes,” Lewis says. “I’ve had the privilege of creating a practice geared toward these types of patients, and, I’m proud to say, there’s rarely a day when I don’t treat a professional athlete.”

His disposition for talent, commitment and passion has not only earned him a revered reputation among his patients, but throughout the entire sports community.

“Dr. Lewis’ professional background is outstanding, but what truly sets him apart from other physicians is his understanding of the mind, the heart and the spirit of the athlete,” says Susan Paul, a top 10 U.S. “Supercoach,” as ranked by Runner’s World Magazine.

Lewis’ past experience as a Division I collegiate athlete has served both as motivation and an added resource for delivering consistently great results. The former tennis player’s ability to relate to his patients has made being part of an athlete’s journey from injury to victory that much more rewarding.

I will always strive toward making my alma mater the top university in the nation.

As an assistant professor with the UCF College of Medicine, he’s had the opportunity to stay involved with rising medical students. He was also named chief sport medicine faculty advisor for the college, and is the founder and director of the UCF Pre-Medical Surgical Internship Program.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with pre-medical and medical students,” he says. “Over the next few years, I hope to take on more leadership positions and continue to teach these future physicians.”

Lewis’ inspiration comes from a genuine interest in providing guidance to passionate students combined with efforts to support his alma mater.

“I have an obligation to give back to the institution and supporters who have given so much to me throughout my life,” Lewis says. “My success is somewhat dependent on the success of UCF.  I will always strive toward making my alma mater the top university in the nation.”

Healing Q&A

Q. Why did you choose to attend UCF?
A. I transferred to UCF after a year of attending the University of North Carolina, where I played tennis. After I realized my hopes of becoming a professional tennis player weren’t going to happen, I enrolled at UCF alongside my good friend Joe Foley from high school. We both chose UCF because of its strong pre-medical curriculum.  Today, Dr. Foley is a renowned interventional cardiologist, and I’m a board-certified reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon.

Q. Favorite UCF memory?
A. Hanging out at the Pre-Health Professions office with Susie Yantz and the rest of my pre-med classmates.

Q. Favorite professor?
A. Dr. Budd Berringer. He taught me the importance of always giving 100 percent in everything I do, and always finding the opportunity to provide service to others.

Q. Favorite class?
A. Endocrinology. Being a molecular biology and microbiology major, I developed an interest in the mechanisms and pathways of the human body. This area of discipline encompasses these in almost all aspects.

Q. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities?
A. During my time at UCF, I was very active with the Pre-Professional Medical Society, and even became president of the organization my last year.

Q. What was your experience like as UCF’s commencement speaker?
A. It was one of the most amazing moments in my life. Having the opportunity to speak in front of an audience of more than 12,000 people was very surreal. To share my motivational words and advice with the hundreds of graduating students was a very humbling experience.

Q. Describe a typical day at work.
A. My typical day depends on whether or not I’m performing surgery. During my typical office day, I will spend eight hours treating patients and then an additional two hours on paperwork and phone calls. Otherwise, I’m in the operating room all day during my surgery days. In addition, I work on my non-medical business, Go Chia!, usually before and after office hours.

Q. Most memorable day at work so far?
A. I received an emergent phone call from a hospital physician requesting me to perform surgery immediately on a pediatric trauma patient. After rushing to the hospital, I performed a complex surgery by reattaching this young boy’s traumatically amputated toe. Later, and without any prior knowledge, it was discovered that this boy was part of one of Florida’s most horrific child abuse cases, which also gained national media attention.

Q. What or who inspires you?
A. People who achieve the impossible. My father has inspired me by his life’s journey of being born and raised in a poor, developing country, who then immigrated to the United States for medical school, and eventually became a family practice physician. Dr. Sarah Kureshi, a UCF graduate and former classmate, is a walking example of someone who epitomizes the word perfection. Not only has she achieved almost everything academically, but also her humanitarian efforts have inspired thousands to make the world a better place.

Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A. I’m attempting that now! I’m the co-founder and co-developer of Go Chia!, a super-foods brand. Developing a healthy food and beverage company has allowed me to take on a business outside of the medical industry. I love promoting this healthy brand in a fun and positive way.

Q. Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A. “Welcome every opportunity to succeed.” —Dr. Zac Haas (my former roommate)