Kent State Alumnus Hopes to Outwit, Outplay and Outlast His Competition on ‘Survivor’
Dr. Josh Wilder has already proved he is a survivor. Wilder, who received his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine from Kent State University’s College of Podiatric Medicine in 2016, was born with Eagle-Barrett syndrome, also known as Prune-Belly syndrome, and doctors did not think he would make it past age 5. At age 9, he had a kidney transplant and was put on immunosuppressant medications for the rest of his life. As a side effect of taking the medicine, he developed cancer of the stomach, which was diagnosed at age 25. Doctors also found signs of B-cell lymphoma, so Wilder had a total stomach removal during his first year at Kent State’s College of Podiatric Medicine.
“I still graduated the top of my class, and I’m a successful physician now,” said Wilder, who moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when he was 5 years old.
But now, Wilder is looking to outwit, outplay and outlast the other contestants on Season 44 of “Survivor” to be the only one left in the game and capture the title of Sole Survivor.
Currently, the 34-year-old is a podiatric surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia. He said the training he received to be a podiatric surgeon has helped him with the reality competition.
“The profession of podiatric surgery prepares you for ‘Survivor’ because in the operating room, you always have to be ready for the unexpected, which is exactly what ‘Survivor’ is about,” Wilder said in the first episode of the season. “But I’m not going to tell people my profession. I don’t want them to think I’m strategic or smart because I’m already gonna be looked at as a threat because of my athleticism. But I can outlast all of my competition.
“I grew up in Ohio as a Black gay man,” Wilder continued. “I survived medical school. I survived a kidney transplant. I survived cancer. So, with all that, you have to take negative situations and turn them to positive outcomes, which is going to be beneficial in ‘Survivor.’ So, this whole experience is what I have been waiting for my whole life, and, of course, I’m gonna win. I’m going to win ‘Survivor.’ I’m your next Sole Survivor of Season 44.”
Michelle Gerhard, operations and credentialing specialist who runs the Kent State College of Podiatric Medicine’s Cleveland Foot & Ankle Clinic, remembers Wilder.
“There is so much to say about him,” Gerhard said. “He is the sweetest person and would do anything for anyone. Patients loved him and the care he gave them.”
David Putman, director of the Office of Academic Operations and Institutional Research at Kent State’s College of Podiatric Medicine, said he had a lot of interactions with Wilder when he was a student.
“He went to undergrad in the Pennsylvania town where my mom and most of my family on her side grew up and lived, so we’d always talk about that,” Putman said. “I remember Josh to be incredibly kind and outgoing. He always had a big smile on his face and always seemed to genuinely care when he’d ask how I was doing. He was also very hardworking as a student. We’ve kept in touch a little over the years, mostly through Facebook. From that limited interaction, I can tell that he’s still the same good person that I knew during his days as a student.”
Wilder joins fellow Golden Flashes who have competed on “Survivor.” Jacob Derwin, a 2016 Kent State graduate who received a bachelor’s degree in journalism, competed on Season 36. Dr. Jill Halmi Behm, who received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Kent State in 1989, competed on Season 21.
Watch Wilder compete on “Survivor,” which airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Wilder’s “Survivor” journey ended. In the sixth episode of the season, Wilder was voted out at Tribal Council.