From Gross Lab to Graduation

May 19, 2011

One student looks back on his journey through medical school

On Saturday, May 21, 2011, fourth-year student Lance Spacek and 97 classmates will graduate with M.D. degrees from the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.


M4 Lance Spacek, right, receiving his white coat in 2007.

Four years ago, when Lance Spacek began medical school at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Medicine, he began just like the rest of his classmates: in the gross anatomy lab.


The long hours and tedious work of studying the human body turned out to be his favorite classroom experience.  Here, he began his hands-on learning, met some of his best friends, and learned to appreciate the dedication of the teaching staff at the TAMHSC College of Medicine.

“[After my first year of school] When I interviewed incoming students, I would tell them about Dr. [Wei-Jung] Chen being in the gross anatomy lab at 11:00 p.m. the night before a test,” Spacek said at an interview shortly before graduation.  “Even at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., he’s there!  He’s very dedicated to helping the students.”

During his second year of school at the College of Medicine’s College Station campus, Spacek was asked to return to the gross anatomy lab as part of ADAPT, a peer-teaching program that Dr. Chen created in which second-year students mentor first-year students.  The second-year students give lectures to the first-year students and help them with various organ systems.

As a member of Stand Tall Against Tobacco or “STAT,” Spacek traveled to local middle schools and gave demonstrations and interactive shows on the negative effects of tobacco use. He also participated in Health Circus, a student-run health fair throughout school.

“Health Circus is a good opportunity to practice physical exams as a first- and second-year student,” he said.  “You get to practice your skills and help people at the same time.”

In 2009 Spacek moved to the College of Medicine’s Round Rock campus for his clinical training where he became part of the original cohort of 13 students to be trained on that campus. There, he liked the Round Rock campus’s vicinity to Austin and family and the opportunities for clinical experience.

“The faculty in Round Rock have a reputation for being very hands-on, personal teachers,” Spacek said.  “There are many opportunities for clinical experience in Round Rock, and I felt like I received one-on-one attention from the attending physicians.”

And it was there that he experienced his most memorable clinical rotation.

“I was on my surgery rotation at St. David’s Hospital with classmate Lauren Schaub, and we were wrapping up a day in the clinic around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m.” Spacek said.  “One of the doctors got a call from his partner, a trauma surgeon, who had a patient with a chest injury caused by a circular saw.” 

So, instead of leaving for the day, the students turned around and headed into the OR.

“I walk in, and the attending physician says, ‘OK, do it!’” Spacek remembered with a chuckle.  “As third-year students, we always scrub in, but we don’t always get to cut.  This time, though, the doctor watched over our shoulders, and we did it all: cleaning the wound and all of the closing of the wound.  We were actually able to do the work.”  In his own words, it was ‘really cool.’

During his fourth year of school, Spacek threw himself into residency interviews—13 in all—before learning that he was matched to a top-choice internal medicine residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee on March 17.

Since then, Spacek has prepared for residency, during which he said he wants to, “…be a servant of God, through medicine, for people.”

As he leaves the College of Medicine, Spacek imparted some advice for current students and gratitude for his teachers.

“Stay focused. Work hard. You are doing this so you can provide the quality of care every human being deserves,” he said.  “And thank you to Dr. Chen, Dr. [Thomas] Peterson, Dr. [Gary] McCord and Filo Maldonado. I couldn’t have asked for better faculty and role models.”

The road from the gross anatomy lab to residency may be marked with countless lectures, exams, and at least one circular saw, and as Spacek said, “There have been some challenges along the way, but overall, it’s been an awesome experience.”

— Marketing & Communications