For Drs. Ashley and Josh Rickey, there’s the Clemson Family and then there’s their Clemson Family.
After earning their undergraduate degrees from Clemson University, the Rickeys met in medical school, married and now are both surgeons at Novant Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is a vascular surgeon. He does general and robotic surgery.
“To say Clemson has impacted our lives is an understatement,” Josh Rickey said.
Josh Rickey grew up in Georgetown, South Carolina, where his best friend’s father was a general surgeon. After he shadowed his friend’s father in the emergency room and watched him operate, Rickey knew he wanted to be a surgeon, too. He graduated in 2005 with a degree in biochemistry.
Ashley Rickey, whose father, Eddie Kaiser, was an agricultural economics professor for nearly three decades, grew up in Clemson.
No other options
“I don’t remember thinking about any other options,” she said. “I knew I wanted to stay for college.”
While she knew she wanted to be a doctor, it wasn’t until a gross anatomy lab at the Medical University of South Carolina that Ashley knew she wanted to be a surgeon. “I just enjoyed being hands on,” the 2006 Clemson microbiology graduate said.
While they both knew many people at Clemson and had similar majors, the Rickeys didn’t meet until their first year of medical school. They were in the same class after Josh Rickey took a year off between graduating from Clemson and attending MUSC.
They were married in Clemson in 2008, their third year of medical school. The Clemson Tiger attended their reception at the Clyde V. Madren Center.
After medical school, they both completed their residencies at MUSC.
Their daughter Kendall was born on Dec. 31, 2012. Football fans may remember the date – when the Tigers upset Louisiana State University in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to record their first 11-win season since the 1981 national championship team.
“It was a 7:30 kickoff, and I was like, ‘We’ve got to speed this up,’” Josh Rickey said. Kendall was born at 5:45 p.m.
“So, we had a newborn baby, and fourth-and-16 happened,” Josh Rickey said, referring to the do-or-die play where quarterback Tajh Boyd hit wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a 26-yard pass to keep a drive alive with less than two minutes to play and the Tigers trailing by two points. Clemson won when Chandler Catanzaro kicked a field goal as time expired. “I’m jumping up and down but trying not to jump so much that I’d wake her up.”
Their second child, son Hunter, was born in 2018.
“I will neither confirm nor deny we named him after a certain receiver who may have made a certain catch at a certain time that was rather important to the history of Clemson Football,” Josh Rickey said.
Tiger football fans don’t have to be told that the receiver was Hunter Renfrow, and the catch was the winning touchdown in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Hunter Rickey’s middle name is Howard — but it isn’t homage to Coach Frank Howard or Howard’s Rock. It’s Ashley Rickey’s father’s middle name.
After their residencies, both wanted to do fellowships in their specialty areas. Fellowships have no couples matches, so Ashley ended up at Wake Forest University and Josh in Charlotte at the Carolinas Medical Center.
“That year was rough,” Ashley said.
Josh moved to Winston-Salem for a second fellowship the following year.
“Winston-Salem is not a destination city like Charleston, but the more time you’re there, the more you get to love it. It’s small enough that you can go to the grocery store, run into people you know and have a great community. But it’s big enough that there are a lot of opportunities,” Ashley Rickey said. “It’s a good place to raise a family.”
There’s the bonus that Wake Forest is in the Atlantic Coast Conference, so Clemson comes to town, she said.
The Clemson Family
The Clemson Family was never so clear to the Rickeys that in the last half of 2021 and beginning of 2022 when Ashley was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent five months of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation treatments.
“The love and support that came from Clemson meant a lot. Clemson is where she grew up; it’s where her dad worked; it’s where our kids have been. It represents family from every aspect of our lives; that was just one clear example,” he said. “The love and support that came from Clemson was phenomenal.”
Ashley Rickey said that while battling cancer is not something anybody would choose to do, she’s thankful for the experience.
“I’m a stronger person now, and it made me a better physician to have a patient experience like that,” she said.
Both the Rickeys appreciate what Clemson has given — and still is giving — to them.
“As a college student, you may realize that you’re making memories and creating friendships, but I think you may not fully soak up the life of Clemson, the people of Clemson, and what that can mean to you as you go on. When I was here, as much as I loved it, it was just the next step to moving on to the next thing,” he said. “If I could return to Clemson Josh, I’d soak more of it up.”
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