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Alumni Spotlight: Kate Spencer, serving the people of Appalachia

November 17, 2022
student Kate Spencer

Kate Spencer, D.O. ('22), is in her first year of residency in family medicine at O’Bleness Hospital in Athens, Ohio. She is from Glouster, Ohio, and has stayed in the southern and southeastern Ohio area  her entire life. She completed her undergraduate degree at Shawnee State University and went to medical school at the Heritage College. After matching earlier this year into the O’Bleness Family Medicine Residency Program, she shares that it is exactly where she wants to be.

“I was excited to have a program that is great but also is exactly where I wanted to be geographically, so it seems pretty surreal honestly,” she shares.

“I really love the people here. It's where my family is. It's where all the people I know are, but the community is pretty special; people do truly care about each other.”

“Everybody has their own problems, and every area has their own problems. But I think that the determination of the people around here is pretty special, and I have a lot of respect for the people around me,” she says.

“I know I could ask any of my neighbors for help, and they would go above and beyond, to help me out. I feel like that's just Appalachia in general. I feel like in other places you're kind of more isolated, but here you're not.”

During her time in the Rural and Urban Scholars Pathways program, Kate shares that Sharon Casapulla, Ph.D., program director, reached out to students for assistance with a grant about harm reduction in Appalachia. She states that it was a multi-state effort and presented many opportunities.

“Even though I didn't stay with that for very long, that opened up so many other doors where I got to work with her on different projects and different harm reduction projects. I got to work with her and my now program director on a project while I was in medical school,” she states.

Having all these opportunities and being able to build these connections was awesome. I'm still very good friends with other students in RUSP because we're able to connect through the different programs that RUSP has.”

In Clinical Jazz, first through fourth year students participate alongside faculty facilitators. Kate states that Clinical Jazz was a highlight of RUSP.

“We were all at the same level and had the same level of respect for everybody. You could open up and really share things and truly be comfortable doing that and know that nobody was going to judge you and that you were going to be supported. You would have all these different perspectives as well because you would have different people just from different walks of life in different stages in their careers,” she states.

“I really valued that and being able to be involved in the different projects and being able to make connections with the harm reduction people in Athens County. I’m excited to hopefully be able to still work on things like that during residency and when I am a practicing physician.”

Kate feels like she belongs in a rural area and hopes to build connections with her patients and work with them.

“Especially here, I can relate to people a lot easier. I feel like there's this opportunity for me to build this relationship with my patients and truly have a collaborative effort to improve their own health and reach their goals. Coming from a rural aspect, I just feel like that's where I belong,” she says.