Three Pittsburg brothers follow in dad’s footsteps to become doctors 

If all goes well, by the end of this decade three Pittsburg brothers will be doctors, following in the footsteps of their dad, also a doctor — and all four began their education at Pitt State. 

The youngest, Aaron, will graduate from Pitt State this Saturday with a degree in Biology and Spanish, and this fall will be a first-year medical student at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He is the recipient of a Golden Gorilla Award and was an Outstanding Senior finalist. 

The other two, Ryan and Simon, will be entering their third year at KUMC. 

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

"Our dad, Dennis Higginbotham (BS ‘75, BS ‘87) is an OB-GYN for the Pittsburg area, and our mother is a labor and delivery nurse, so we definitely had that as a source of guidance growing up, our family being in the medical field,” Simon said. 

The three grew up attending school at St. Mary’s Colgan, and “community service there was always stressed,” said Aaron.

“It’s fulfilling to be able to help someone," Aaron said. "We learned that early on with the Lord’s Diner, Wesley House, the Salvation Army.” 

Aaron began thinking of a potential career in health care in high school when he was encouraged to take Anatomy & Physiology, and he was further guided in college by his advisor, Professor Virginia Rider, who advised and educated numerous area health care professionals. 

Many of those professionals return to campus to speak in Pre Health Orientation class, Aaron said, sharing their experiences, offering advice, and sometimes granting shadowing opportunities, which has helped. 

Aaron went through the early decision program at Pitt State and knew last October he had a spot secured in medical school. 

“I’m interested in radiology and anesthesiology, but I’m looking forward to clinicals and rotations in med school so I can learn more about specialties,” he said. 


Simon, Ryan, and Aaron Higginbotham

Ryan knew at age four or five he wanted to go into medicine, first thinking he might become a veterinarian. 

“I decided in grade school to become a doctor, and the experiences I got while I was here definitely helped me get to the next level,” he said. “I was active in Biology Club and Pre-Med Club. But Pitt State also gave me the opportunity to explore outside of that — I studied abroad in Finland for a semester, because if you want to study in another country, Pitt State will make that happen, and I took art classes that gave me something outside of science.” 

Ryan is leaning heavily toward a specialty in plastic surgery, and already has gotten to witness treatment of burn cases and reconstructive surgery. 

“Something they ask you to think about, especially when you’re applying to med school, and that they consistently point out that wherever you are at, is that you have a chance to make an impact in your community,” Ryan said. “Starting out, going through college, I knew I wanted to be able to make a significant difference, and I realized that’s a difficult thing to do on a large scale. But if I can make a significant difference for a single person, and they can go out and make a difference to someone else, I can be the source of the ripple. That’s my goal, going into medicine.” 

Simon can’t remember wanting to do anything else. 

“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “The matriculation rate from Pitt State to med schools is exceedingly high, and when you combine that with flat rate tuition, it seemed like an obvious choice to attend.”  

At the advice of Rider, he also pursued other interests, including coaching youth baseball, playing club baseball, and leadership opportunities. 

“Those experiences were crucial in diversifying myself as an applicant for med school,” he said. 

Simon recently became very interested in cardiothoracic surgery and the use of the da Vinci robotic surgical system. 

“When you think about what you want from a career, to have it benefit others is nice. But with medicine you can benefit others and also be constantly challenging yourself, especially in surgery,” Simon said. “It becomes a mastery of a process, but in order to master it you also have to understand everything that underlies the process. It’s an academically stimulating environment and that drew me to it.” 

Other Higginbotham siblings include a sister and two brothers, none of whom went into medicine, but who each are contributing to their communities in their own ways.

Learn more about the Pitt State Pre-Med program:

Biology Department