From Basketball Walk-On to Surgeon

From Basketball Walk-On to Surgeon

The skills Daniel Kolder, BS’00, MD’04, honed in the classroom and on the basketball court at Creighton University – a commitment to excellence, a drive to succeed and a belief in the value of teamwork – have served him well in his current profession as a surgeon.

Kolder is no stranger to hard work. He helped lead his high school team in Columbus, Neb. – a team that was not expected to do well – to the Class A state title game his senior year. He received basketball scholarship offers from several small colleges, but chose to walk on at Creighton.

Although he saw limited playing time in his four years with the Bluejays, from 1996 to 2000, Kolder earned the respect of his teammates and coaches as the consummate team player. He played in 68 games and scored 43 points in his Creighton career under then-coach Dana Altman, while earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

Kolder was part of teams that reached the NIT in 1998 and NCAA Tournaments in 1999 and 2000. His teammates included current NBA player Kyle Korver, Rodney Buford, Ryan Sears and Ben Walker. Kolder says he still keeps in contact with several former teammates, as well as former Creighton men’s basketball coach Dana Altman.

Kolder is currently a board-certified plastic surgeon at the Pacifica Institute in Camarillo, Calif. He credits a large part of his professional success to his small-town upbringing and his eight years at Creighton.

“When you treat people the way I was brought up, it’s above and beyond what other people (in the field) do, and it allows me to separate myself when I take care of patients,” Kolder says. “I think if I were in Nebraska, patients would just think that’s how you treat people.”

Kolder says he frequently reflects on how fortunate he was to have attended Creighton. “I showed up in 1996 as a kid from Columbus,” he says, “and when I left in 2004, they called me Dr. Kolder. That’s a big eight years.”

Recently, Kolder attained a measure of limelight as the attending plastic surgeon for June Shannon on a WEtv reality television show highlighting her dramatic physical transformation after major weight loss. (Shannon is best known as “Mama June,” the mother of Alana Thompson, aka “Honey Boo Boo.”) Kolder said working with the show’s production team wasn’t as crazy as one might think and called Shannon an “unbelievable” patient.

But don’t expect the fame to go to Kolder’s head. He’s enjoying life in Camarillo, which is located about an hour outside of Los Angeles, but remains solidly grounded by his Midwestern roots and his Creighton education.

“I don’t think there was a better place for me to be in the world from age 18 to 26,” Kolder says of his time at Creighton. “The further away from it I get, the more appreciative I am.”

Photos courtesy of Dr. Daniel Kolder