HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Feb. 10, 2014) — The opportunity to "learn under" nationally recognized faculty and participate in leading edge research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) spiked Thomas K. Spain's ('06 BS Physics) curiosity and his drive to think outside the box.
The alumnus returns to the university on Thursday, Feb. 13, as a guest lecturer for the UAH Honors College. Spain's lecture "All Hands on Deck: The Healthcare Ship is Sinking and We Need You on the Team," will be presented in the Shelby Center for Science and Technology room 107. The talk is free and open to the public.
He earned his doctor of medicine degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he is completing combined residency training in internal medicine and pediatrics.
Spain grew up in Huntsville and has been familiar with UAH since he was young boy. Both of his parents attended the university, and his dad, Dr. Thomas "Kenny" Spain worked here for 25 years, as a senior research associate. During his tenure at UAH, Kenny Spain conducted research on various energy programs at the Alabama Solar Energy Center, Johnson Research Center, and the Earth System Science Center.
"As I looked for the best place to pursue my undergraduate education, I couldn't pass up the value of a UAH education combined with the opportunity to learn under Dr. Lloyd Hillman (former chairperson Department of Physics)," Spain said. "I had the chance to work with Dr. Hillman briefly before his death on his longstanding efforts to develop a retinal vessel oximeter for monitoring trauma patients."
Spain also had the chance to conduct structural biology research with Dr. Pam Twigg, (assistant research professor Department of Chemistry) on a protein related to Huntington's Disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder.
Although he graduated from UAH with a physics degree, Spain said he entered the university with aspirations to go into medicine.
"After considering several science and engineering degree options, I ultimately decided on physics for several reasons," he said. "Physics was a field I already loved from high school, and it provided me the opportunity to obtain a very broad foundation in the sciences while working with Dr. Hillman and several of the other fantastic mentors and educators in the UAH Department of Physics. It also taught me how to break down and think through complex problems, which is a skill I use daily in my role as physician and systems provider."
Spain said through the Department of Physics and the Honors College (formerly Honors Program) he had the opportunity to learn in a variety of smaller course settings where he enjoyed close and long-term interactions with many of the great faculty educators at UAH. "I think this and related experiences encouraged my existing tendencies to be curious and think outside the box. It placed me on a solid footing to think through complex problems as part of a team and appreciate how many different facets there are to any one problem," he said. "Coming from Huntsville and UAH, I also have a strong appreciation for how technology can be effectively applied to meet various challenges."
Spain graduated from Whitesburg Baptist Christian School in Huntsville. At UAH, he received the Isadore and Mamie Wind and Children Scholarship, and as a senior he was awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Walter and Adelheid Hohenstein Graduate Fellowship, and the Alpha Lambda Delta Margaret C. Berry Graduate Fellowship, which were both used for medical school.
He also served as a Science Ambassador, working closely with College of Science Dean, Dr. Jack Fix and other university leaders. Spain graduated summa cum laude receiving the highest academic achievement award as the top graduate from the UAH College of Science (2006). Additionally, Spain was the recipient of two endowed medical scholarships awarded from Vanderbilt.
In addition to practicing clinical medicine caring for children and adults, Spain hopes to spend his career helping lead health system efforts that make processes and technology work better and safer for patients, providers, and staff. "There is so much need now for fresh thinking about how we manage disease and promote health, and I hope to be right there helping push the leading edge of innovation in safety, value, and patient-focused service."
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