Transitioning from active military service to the classroom is never easy. Kinesiology student Richard Erfurth, 34, knows firsthand, and his adaptability and dedication has paid off. After his graduation from the CPHHS next month, he will continue his education and journey toward becoming a physician assistant.
“It was a big adjustment, but the structure and commitment the college takes to help me be a successful student helped me in my transition,” Richard says.
“I saw college as my next mission, and it was easy for me to keep focus because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life and that was to continue to practice medicine.”
Before coming to OSU, he served in the United States Navy as a hospital corpsman from 2007-2012. During his time in the military, Richard helped in the Philippines and Indonesia after back-to-back earthquakes.
He also served on the battlefield in Sangin, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom. It was there that he performed the courageous helping a fellow Marine get out of danger, as well as a member of the opposing military. This act earned Richard, a senior corpsman at the time, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with combat distinguishing service for heroic achievement.
His Summary of Action report describes how Richard treated an injured Afghan National Army solider with a gunshot wound to the right leg. It then explains how Richard helped a fellow Marine:
“After transporting the casualty to the rear of the squad, the front of the squad was fired upon again by effective medium machine gun fire. … was struck by a round of fire under his right armpit and the round exited the middle of his back. Hospital Corpsman Second Class Erfurth again maneuvered up to the front of the squad, while under effective enemy fire, to pull … out of the kill zone. He then treated the causality while incoming rounds impacted his immediate area.”
The report goes on to describe how Richard conducted a quick patient turnover and resumed his duties with the battalion clearing operation. “Hospital Corpsman Second Class Erfurth was multi-faceted, versatile and industrious. He was a consummate professional who continuously played a key role in the success of the unit he was supporting,” the summary says.
Following his time in the Navy, Richard founded a program called Rescues Rescuing Veterans through Bounce Rescue. This program aims to pair rescued companion dogs with veterans who are struggling with PTSD and/or depression.
Richard started classes at Portland Community College in 2013 before transferring to OSU in 2014. He decided to study kinesiology because his ultimate goal is to become a physician assistant focusing on trauma/orthopedic and trauma/sports medicine. During his time at OSU, he stood out to his professors.
“Richard consistently offered a unique perspective in class, and his passion for working with individuals more specifically individuals with disabilities was evident in his volunteer work within and outside of OSU,” says Assistant Professor Megan MacDonald.
“Richard is one of the most enthusiastic students I have ever taught and worked with,” says Assistant Professor Sam Logan. “He has a genuine desire to help others and it comes through from the moment you meet him. He is kind and intelligent, and we are proud to have him as a CPHHS alum.”
Richard’s time in the service shaped the rest of his life. He says that being in combat helped to show him what is truly important. As Richard graduates from the CPHHS and participates in the White Coat ceremony at Pacific University the day prior, he will continue his mission toward completion of his physician assistant degree. It’s a career path that perfectly unites the medical skills gained during his military service and the knowledge he gained in the kinesiology program about how the human body moves and works.