Just who is the “ultimate guy” for 2016? According to Men’s Health magazine, it’s Jedidiah Ballard, D.O.’10.
“They brought us [three finalists] on stage and unveiled this huge cover of the magazine,” he says. “It took me a moment to register it was me.”
Ballard saw an ad for the contest when he was reading the magazine one sleepless night. He was intrigued because it wasn’t just a fitness contest. “I wouldn’t have to be just on a stage in a Speedo,” he says. “They were also looking at charitable work and other accomplishments.”
On a whim, he entered the contest, as did about 800 other men. To his amazement, he made it through several elimination rounds, landing in the 100 quarterfinalists, the 10 semifinalists and the final three.
It’s obvious he’s fit. “I grew up pretty active,” says Ballard, as he shared tales of running through the woods, chopping firewood, and helping his dad roof a house. He also played every sport offered in school, a common denominator when you grow up in a small town like Columbia Falls, MT.
He’s fairly strong, too, which he proved recently by doing push-ups with one of his four brothers on his back. He performed push-ups from a handstand position for the Men’s Health crew that photographed him.
Ballard’s fitness feats include being on the winning four-man team in the 11th annual Southeast MedWAR, a medical wilderness competition in which the participants race through 15 miles of woodlands as their emergency medical skills are put to the test. Part of the race required a team member to ride a mountain bike while the others ran, and another leg involved paddling a canoe and trudging knee-deep through a swamp.
Ballard’s next competition took him to Fort Benning, GA, for U.S. Army Ranger School, an intense 61-day leadership course, where soldiers crawl, walk and run in preparation for combat. So demanding was the training that only 31 of 386 candidates made it through without remediation. Ballard was among the elite finishers. He went to Fort Lewis, WA, to become the surgeon for the 2nd Ranger Battalion, a Special Operations Airborne Infantry unit, and deployed to Afghanistan and Korea.
“Being an Army Ranger was really hard sometimes, but I gained life experience that I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere,” says Ballard, whose father served two tours in Vietnam. “America’s been very good to me. I feel very blessed I had the opportunity to serve my country in that manner.”
Along with eating a healthy diet, Ballard works out six days a week. “I’m really balanced,” he says. “I generally work with weights two to three days, and the rest is a random mix of activities.”
Ballard completed his residency at the Medical College of Georgia and returned in fall 2015. He recently completed a fellowship in ultrasound, which led to pro bono teaching assignments in Canada, Peru and Panama.
“There’s a huge need for this kind of thing in other countries,” he says. “I like seeing the world and going places I’ve never been, but I’m also pretty cognizant of the opportunities we’ve been given in America.”
He’s also found time over the years to dig ditches in Cambodia, help with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Louisiana and volunteer at a burn camp for kids in Colorado.
“Just as fitness is an important part of my life, so is charity,” he told Men’s Health editors in his contest entry.
Ballard says being named the “Ultimate Guy” is “awesome,” but he was happy merely to be considered.
“Honestly, I just enjoy life,” he says. “I legitimately like my job and the people I work with. I’m in a good spot.”