Pedaling Through Medical School

Navigating through medical school is much like learning how to ride a bicycle. When you first hop on and start pedaling, you’re likely to obtain some bumps and bruises along the way; but you slowly begin to find your balance and forge your own path. For Student Doctor David Butler, a third-year student at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, cycling has become an outlet to find the perfect school-life balance.

Student Doctor David Butler takes a selfie while riding his bike in the Boise Twilight Criterium on Saturday, June 29.
Student Doctor David Butler

Since 2020, Butler has logged at least 2,000 to 3,000 miles on his bike every year, participating in a local race or sporting event here and there. Earlier this year, Butler decided to take his cycling hobby a little more seriously.

“With the ever-looming stress of Level 1/Step 1 testing, I thought it would be a good way to force myself to take some breaks from studying,” Butler said. “This is my first year in a really competitive sphere doing races consistently.”

Of course, medical school and family come first for Student Doctor Butler, but cycling has found a nice place in his life, filling in the gaps between school and home life. Sometimes that means only having enough time to ride to school, weather-permitting, or on the weekends. Other times, he’s able to plan a 30-40 mile ride. Either way, Butler says cycling provides a great outlet for physical and mental health, providing stress relief and accountability.

Captured on 18 Jun, 2024 by Brian Kohagen. @briankohagen, @idahobikebrian, SWICA Crit 6

“Another aspect I like about cycling is the sense of achievement,” Butler said. “I track all of my rides via GPS and I can see how fast I go. It gives me a way to compete against myself and see how I’m improving. Cycling gives me measurable success and improvement, whereas medical school seems to be about passing the next test. As long as you’re doing well, you never really get to go back and show yourself that you’re getting better with all of the material, but in cycling you can.”

In the spirit of measurable success and improvement, Butler participated in the 37th annual Boise Twilight Criterium cycling event in June. The annual event attracts both top professional women’s and men’s cycling teams, as well as local and national amateur riders, as they navigate the streets of downtown Boise in a high-speed race course.

During the event, Student Doctor Butler donned an ICOM-branded jersey, as he was personally sponsored by Dr. Thomas Moorman, Associate Dean of Student Services and his wife, Melissa, on behalf of ICOM. In front of thousands of spectators, cheering and ringing cowbells to support and encourage the athletes, Butler cycled in the nationally-ranked top 8 best criteriums on the USA Cycling race calendar.

Student Doctor Butler crosses the finish line at the Boise Twilight Criterium.
Student Doctor Butler crosses the finish line at the Boise Twilight Criterium.

“The Twilight Criterium is awesome. I’ve never done anything quite like it before,” Butler said. “Competitions like this let you forget about whatever personal limits you think you might have because you have to battle the unknown. When the rider next to you kicks it up a notch and you’ve got to keep up with the pack or get dropped, you do everything you can because you don’t know how anyone else is feeling at the moment. You don’t know if they can put more into it or not, and it’s this sort of race situation that lets you push past your limits and find new abilities.”

As Student Doctor Butler embarks on his clinical clerkships, being active in the local racing scene is on his agenda.

“The further I get in my medical career, the more I see value in being a part of local programs that seek to build a community for people who want to race and get into racing, rather than just my own achievements,” Butler said. “My biggest goal is to contribute and help grow the cycling community wherever I end up living so that other people can get as much joy out of it as I do.”

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