An 18-year-old Jeffrey Boatright took a deep breath and dove into his Olympic tryout lane.
Years later, he took another leap of faith and quit his vice presidential job in a hedge fund company to dive into medicine.
Now, Boatright, a 29-year-old fourth-year medical student at the University of Florida College of Medicine, worked on orthopedic surgery rotations everywhere from UF to Emory to the University of Virginia.
His journey to medicine started in a swimming lane.
He learned to swim at 4 and started competing when he was 6. He grew up in Waynesboro, Va., with pruney fingers and hair that smelled of chlorine. But by the time he’d reached his junior year of high school, he felt he’d squeezed in all of the training he could get from his town. He enrolled in the Bolles School, a private school in Jacksonville known for producing Olympic swimmers.
He made it to the 2000 Olympic trials, where he swam the 200-meter butterfly against Michael Phelps and other elite swimmers. He dove and the pressure washed over him. Competitors are generally relaxed during meets, but this one was different. It was all or nothing.
His time of 2:10.06 didn’t send him to the Olympics, but instead he led Florida State University to the Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Along the way, he saw injured teammates get back into their races because of orthopedic surgeons.
Two years into his time at FSU, Boatright had a change of heart. He still loved swimming, but could he make a living from it? He decided he couldn’t and set off to find a new calling.
He ended up following some investment-minded buddies to Atlanta into an entry-level brokering job at New South Capital Management. Three years later, he was vice president of trading operations. He spent those years entertaining investors, filing quarterly reports and making hard-and-fast decisions about when to buy or sell future commodity market positions, which are similar to stocks.
He said he could have made a great living with that career. He could have retired at that job. Yet something still didn’t feel right.
“My whole point of leaving Florida State and leaving swimming was to find out what I wanted to do,” Boatright said. “I just knew deep down inside. I just knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever.”
The son of an orthopedic surgeon, he said he was inspired by his dad’s love for his job.
“My dad was always happy, always ready to go to work,” he said.
So he jumped in.
He received a bachelor’s and master’s from Florida Atlantic University and started at UF’s College of Medicine in 2008.
He met his wife, Laura, during a patient training exercise and connected with her right away. They married in 2010. Boatright said he and his wife, a third-year medical student, keep each other centered.
Now in his senior year, he couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
“There is no longer any doubt in my mind that this is exactly what I was meant to do,” he said.