(3/26/19) An accomplished primary care physician and father of two, Billy Branch, MD, can now add the title of “American Ninja Warrior” contestant to his credentials. The Steward Medical Group doctor has been selected to appear on NBC television’s highly popular obstacle course series American Ninja Warrior – Season 11 this summer.
“It’s hard to even explain my excitement to being selected,” said Dr. Branch, an internist and pediatrician at Glenwood Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in Sterlington. The 35-year-old and his wife, Lauren, have two daughters ages 5 and 9 months old. They reside about 20 minutes from where he grew up in Louisiana and his medical practice is about five minutes from where he graduated high school. He has been training for the past year to gain a spot on the show and will travel to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma next month for two days of taping. The journey to get there was born of heartache and grit.
Last year, Dr. Branch’s brother-in-law and his brother-in-law’s friend died as a result of an automobile accident. The pair were avid fans of the show and his determination to make the cast is a tribute to them. “They used to watch American Ninja Warrior and I want so badly for this experience to lift the spirits of those they left behind,” Dr. Branch said. Through his dedicated training, Dr. Branch has become healthier, shedding 80 pounds off his frame.
American Ninja Warrior is hosted by Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila, This season the obstacle course competition series will film in six cities this season, including Oklahoma City where Dr. Branch will compete, along with its inaugural trip to the Pacific Northwest and its first time shooting indoors at Washington’s iconic Tacoma Dome. The show’s national finals will once again take place in Las Vegas.
The action-packed series follows competitors as they tackle challenging obstacle courses in city qualifying and finals rounds throughout the country. Top competitors in each of the city finals rounds move onto the national finals, where they compete on a four-stage course that includes multiple obstacles on each stage. The winner, who must complete all four stages, including the final 75-foot rope climb, will take home a grand prize of $1 million. In addition, the ninja to go the farthest on the national finals course will win $100,000. This season will also bring some new, significant changes to the course and the game play, including new rules for the mega-warped wall and never-before-seen obstacles.
If anyone is up for the challenge, it is Dr. Branch, said Steven McMahan, MD, a co-founder of Family Doctors of Northeast Louisiana and one of Dr. Branch’s Steward Medical Group colleagues.
“The same passion and dedication that Billy brings to his patients in their care is the same energy and laser-focus he’ll bring to his American Ninja Warrior competition,” said Dr. McMahan. “Whatever task he’s facing he gives it his all. He’s an inspiration to many and we look forward to cheering him on.”
Dr. Branch was first drawn to medicine after undergoing surgery at age 14 to correct chronic issues he had with his sinuses. He endured a nine-hour operation to repair a hole where a small piece of his brain, about the size of a grape, had extended down into his frontal sinuses. Following the operation he had a small stroke related to swelling from the surgery, he said. He made a full recovery and the experience helped chart his future.
“I knew I knew I wanted to be a doctor from an early age,” Dr. Branch said. “I had brain surgery and it really stuck with me from then on. I was driven toward this lofty goal.”
Monroe, near where he lives and practices, has some of the highest obesity rates in the nation, he says. According to state figures, Louisiana has the sixth-highest adult obesity rate in the country. He’s hoping to motivate others to be active and, more globally, work with children and schools to help the next generation lead healthier lives.
“I want my daughters to grow up knowing that fitness is important to health. Adults are mostly set in their ways so we have to focus on shaping the next generation to do better and I hope to do that with the American Ninja Warrior platform,” Dr. Branch said. “My training partner and I preach ‘Do It Today’ because tomorrow is never guaranteed. We think that being healthy and helpful leads to happiness and try to impact others around us in the same way. We’d love for that to be our message and something that might light a spark in others.”
Dr. Branch is in practice at Glenwood Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in Sterlington, Louisiana. He is affiliated with Glenwood Regional Medical Center. His office may be reached at 318-665-0170.