Wade ’05: Accidental Alumnus, Intentional Generosity

Jonathan Wade smiling.

Jonathan Wade ’05, D.O., initially came to Lexington to look at Washington and Lee. The former baseball player runs direct DOC, a flat-rate medical service, in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. His time at VMI impacted him greatly, and he recently worked on a scholarship with Andrew Deal ’12, Keydet Club Vice President.—Photo courtesy Wade.

When Jonathan Wade ’05 traveled from his then-home north of Atlanta, Georgia, to visit Lexington, Virginia, more than 20 years ago, he did so to visit Washington and Lee University.

“I wanted to play baseball in college, and I had heard good things about Washington and Lee’s program and the school overall,” Wade remembered. “Initially, I wasn’t planning on visiting VMI, but my high school coach, who knew VMI’s coach, urged me to take a look around.”

Whatever he saw during that visit must have impressed him, because Wade began to examine VMI closely. What he discovered impressed him even more.

“Its alumni were accomplished leaders in their chosen professions. They were fiercely loyal to their school and to each other,” he said. “They had a great network.” VMI’s outsized reputation also struck him. “Whenever I mentioned VMI, someone always seemed to have some sort of connection to an alumnus or to have something good to say about it.”

At a winter baseball camp at Auburn University, Wade met Chris Finwood ’88. At VMI, Finwood had coached Tom Slater ’90, who headed VMI’s baseball team for three years beginning in 2000, as well as Slater’s assistant, Marlin Ikenberry ’95. Finwood, then coaching at Western Kentucky University, sized up Wade’s skills and then told Slater that Wade had the talent necessary to play Division I baseball.

When Wade learned he had been accepted into the prestigious Institute Scholars program, VMI became irresistible. “A chance to play baseball at the top level and a full-ride scholarship made it impossible to say, ‘No,’ to VMI.”

Wade describes his 4th Class year as “eye-opening and humbling. Humbling because, academically, high school was easy for me, and suddenly I was challenged in the classroom. In fact, I got a ‘D’ in my second semester of rat chemistry.”

The “eye-opening” part?

“The demands of being a cadet-athlete were relentless. There was class, practice, and the Rat Line, and Coach Slater and Coach ‘Ike’ demanded we do well in the barracks and the classroom as well as on the field.” With second semester came the end of the Rat Line, but it also meant the beginning of the baseball season and even more demands on Wade’s time. “There were games during the week and on weekends, and there was a lot of traveling.”

A biology major, Wade planned to head to medical school after VMI. So, he took steps to ensure his academic performance would not flag. They included returning for summer sessions in order to get ahead on credits so he could take fewer classes during baseball season. Another was overcoming a stereotype. “When I was a cadet, many faculty members thought that cadet-athletes cared primarily about athletic success. So, I made it a point to tell all my professors that I took my education seriously.”

Although he was successful as a student, before his 1st Class year, Wade faced a hard choice. “The team had made amazing progress. In my first season, we won just one game in the Southern Conference and 10 games overall. The next year, we posted a winning record in the SoCon and placed third in the conference tournament. The talent level was incredible. I think five guys from that 2003 team were drafted. I was making a solid contribution to the team—one of whom was our current coach, Jon Hadra ’04—and I loved being part of a wonderful group of men.”

“As great as all that was, my goal was medical school, and I knew I needed to ensure my grades were the best they could be.” So, he did not play his 1st Class year. “Coach Ikenberry fully understood my situation, and he supported my decision. Happily, Robert Crumpler ’07 stepped up to the first-base position and enjoyed a stellar career.”

"My VMI experience gave me a strong work ethic, the ability to focus on what needs to be done, and the confidence that if I buckled down and focused, I could do anything.”

Jonathan Wade ’05, D.O.

Wade’s decision paid off, and he was admitted to medical school. “I owe a lot to everyone in the biology department. Particularly, Colonel James Turner [’65] guided me through a summer research project, and Colonel Wade Bell did a lot to get me ready for applying for medical school, including preparing me for interviews.”

When he arrived at medical school, he had no doubts he was ready academically. “More important, though, my VMI experience gave me a strong work ethic, the ability to focus on what needs to be done, and the confidence that if I buckled down and focused, I could do anything.”

As to his medical career, Wade eschewed specializing and pursued family medicine. He liked the fact that family medicine would let him “practice medicine across its full breadth and take care of patients from cradle to grave. It would afford me the opportunity to work in hospitals, emergency rooms, standard medical offices, and hospices, and I could not do that if I had specialized in, say, orthopedics.”

And he has stayed true to that commitment to the point of adopting an approach to medicine known as direct primary care and, in 2018, co-founded a health care business called direct DOC in Nashville, Georgia.

Under the DPC model, patients pay direct DOC a flat, recurring monthly fee, which Wade likens to a membership in a gym. That fee guarantees patients full access to the practice’s services anytime and anywhere. The practice doesn’t ask for copayments or bill insurance companies, as the membership fee covers all costs.

Describing what he finds most attractive about DPC, Wade said, “I became a physician in order to make peoples’ lives better by improving their health. The best way to do that is to establish close doctor-patient relationships in order to promote wellness, and you can’t do that properly if insurance companies act as middlemen.”

While he approaches medicine like an old-fashioned family “doc,” Wade embraces technology. “Patients have 24/7 access by telephone, FaceTime, and email. In fact, more than 70% of our ‘visits’ are conducted using telemedicine.” For Wade that means that he can give any in-office patients the time and attention they deserve.

Wade’s practice has grown steadily. Now, businesses can provide memberships to their employees which generates considerable savings. In fact, one company is saving more than $500,000 a year. Wade points to the addition of a counselor to handle mental health issues and establishment of an on-site pharmacy that he says “offers drugs at prices lower than Walmart” as an illustration of DPC’s benefits. “Patients get first-rate service and exceptional medical care, and they end up keeping more money in their pockets.”

As he looked at the direct DOC’s success, he often thought of what had helped him achieve it. “I kept thinking how thankful I was for what VMI had done for me. And, really, not just me, but so many other alumni I know. VMI prepares you for success because it instills self-discipline and confidence and gives you the ability and the willingness to grab opportunities.”

So, Wade decided to make a commitment to VMI, the majority of which he dedicated to establishing the Jonathan Wade ’05 Baseball Scholarship. “The baseball program was a family to me while I was a cadet, and I wanted to pay that back a bit. More important than that, I wanted to give a young man the chance to play baseball at the Division I level for VMI.”

As to what he hopes a scholarship recipient will do with that chance, he said, “I hope he enjoys the camaraderie of a team, forms lasting friendships, makes a lot of cool memories, and develops poise, a strong work ethic, and self-discipline. I also hope he seizes every academic and leadership opportunity he finds. In short, I want him to make the most of his years at VMI because, if he does, he’ll give himself an excellent start in life.”

Deal ’12:
Gift Officer Profile

Andrew Deal ’12, VMI Keydet Club vice president, recently worked with Jonathan Wade ’05 in establishing a scholarship. Both are former Keydet baseball players.

“My decision to attend VMI was much like Jon’s,” Deal said. “Baseball was everything to me growing up, and I was incredibly thankful that all my hard work paid off in the form of a scholarship.”

His years as a Keydet—and as a cadet—changed him for the better, Deal said.

“For me, the cadet-athlete experience was life-changing. It molded me into a man,” he said. “It allowed me to grow as a person. It made me tougher, more responsible, more accountable. Being a part of a team is powerful. The lessons you learn, the adversity you go through—and trust me, there is a lot of it—sets you apart.”

In his current position, he sees the tremendous support the VMI family has for cadets. And, Deal never forgets the support he received from someone who came before him.

“I will be forever grateful to Elmon T. Gray ’46, who established the scholarship I received. Working for nine years at the VMI Keydet Club has been eye-opening and rewarding,” Deal said. “I wish every cadet could sit in my chair and see the powerful support from our alumni and friends and how it continues to make the VMI experience special.”

Collaborating with Wade to make his idea a reality was “a pleasure,” Deal said. “For me, a former baseball player, it was amazing to realize the impact it will have on the program. I certainly hope that the way he stepped up will encourage others to do the same.”

  • Scott Belliveau

    Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects

    The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.