Braving the elements

As a third-year medical student at GW Hospital, Candice Woodcock generally spends her days on duty saving lives. But she was struggling for her own life last summer as part of her second stint on the popular reality television drama Survivor.

Last August, Woodcock, who placed eighth out of 20 contestants on Survivor: Cook Islands in 2006, returned to the show for its 10th-anniversary special, titled Heroes vs. Villains. For this occasion, 20 perceived do-gooders and malefactors from seasons past spent 39 days on the island of Samoa in the Pacific Ocean. They competed a second time – with Woodcock on the Heroes team – to win big while enduring the obstacles of life without food, water, fire, or shelter.

The intensity of the situation was such that Woodcock said re-acclimating to life at home required letting go of the survival instinct she had developed on the show.

“You’re so hungry out there and so all you can think about when you come home is food,” said Woodcock. “And so I’d always make sure that I had little snacks in my bag at work because you kind of have this paranoia that, you know, when’s the next time I’m going to be able to eat?”

Her participation in the reunion special posed a big challenge: fitting filming in between her studies and planning her upcoming wedding. Woodcock said she was not initially sure she would be able to do the show.

“It just kind of kept eating away at me. I kept thinking about it. It kept creeping into my mind. So as everything started falling into place, in my family, and [with] my fiancé and his family – they were all behind me – I just felt like, you know, why not? Go for it,” said Woodcock.

The “go-for-it” attitude is one she has personified throughout much of her life. Before earning her master’s degree in physiology and biophysics at Georgetown, she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full-merit scholarship and participated in four self-designed summer enrichment programs while there.

In one of the programs, she spent 10 weeks living in a mud hut with a tribal family in Kenya, where she taught primary and secondary school for rural villagers. As part of her scholarship, she also established a clinic that distributed 800 pairs of eyeglasses from donors in the United States.

Another summer, she split her time between working at GW Hospital’s Cancer Clinic and at La Clinica del Pueblo, a nonprofit community health center in Columbia Heights. Thanks to her father’s career as an ophthalmologist, Woodcock said being a doctor was all she really considered growing up.

“As a doctor, you can have a direct impact on your patients’ quality of life, and I think that’s what is so appealing about it,” said Woodcock.

With two seasons of Survivor, several humanitarian projects around the world and medical school under her belt, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, N.C. native said she doesn’t know what’s next on the list.

“That is the question of the century,” said Woodcock, adding that her top three career options are ophthalmology, anesthesiology and general surgery.

Whatever she decides to pursue, she says her experiences prior to Survivor helped to demonstrate the importance of forming relationships with other people, something that served her well on the show.

“It kind of made me realize that I know who I am. As long as I know that I believe in what I’m doing, you don’t have to listen to all the chatter,” said Woodcock.

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