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Like father, like son

Dr. Richard Gardner and son Benjamin
Dr. Richard Gardner, optometrist at CVAHCS and son, Benjamin Gardner post in an exam room.

COLUMBIA, S.C. –- There are plenty of examples of sons who have followed in their father’s footsteps. Henry Ford’s son, Edsel took over the Ford Motor Company, and Kirk Douglas, whose four sons were all involved in the television and movie industry. Even the Columbia VAHCS has gotten into the act.

Dr. Richard Gardner is an optometrist at CVAHCS’s Dorn campus. His son, Benjamin, recently graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in chemistry and a minor in biology and is working on his medical school applications.

“My father first signed me up for the VA student volunteer program in the summer after 7th grade,” said Benjamin. “He has been incredibly supportive in my journey, and I am very lucky to have his guidance.”

Every year, VA Medical Centers across the nation host middle and high school students, giving them an opportunity to have a firsthand experience to care for Veterans and gain valuable volunteer and work experiences. This year the Columbia VA Health Care System accepted 74 students, ages 13–17 years old from 24 schools, to volunteer at the Dorn VA Medical Center on the main campus in Columbia and the community-based outpatient clinic in Greenville, South Carolina.

When asked about pride in his son’s choice of becoming a doctor, Dr. Gardner said, “He must have recognized something positive in the profession, so yeah, I was proud that he was interested in pursuing it.”

 “I first became interested in becoming a physician when I started volunteering at Dorn in the 7th grade,” added Benjamin. “I was so lucky to get exposure to many different departments and gained a better understanding of a clinical setting. The interactions I have had at the VA made me fall in love with patient care.”

 Dr. Gardner studied at Salus University in Philadelphia and completed his residency training at the CVAHCS in 2003. He stayed at CVAHCS after finishing his residency. He moved to a VA system in Oregon for a couple years, then returned to Columbia. 

“I am interested in both working in a clinical setting and gaining research experience that, hopefully, will be influential in the long run for my career,” said Benjamin. “GI (gastro-intestinal) has particularly interested me ever since I started volunteering in the clinic in 2018, but I am excited to see what each specialty has to offer.”

“I fully support him gaining as much experience as possible,” added Dr. Gardner. 

Children following in the footsteps of their parents has been around probably since cavemen days. There is a source of pride for the parents knowing that they have made enough of an impression on their children that they would want to continue in the parent’s professions. And a sense of respect from the children seeing that their parents made enough of an impression to continue in their trade.