Building a legacy through the annual fund
Shauna Pace Spanos
Hometown: Grew up in Christiansburg, Va. But Richmond has been home for 10 years
Undergraduate education: Virginia Tech, Management Science and Information Technology, 1999; Virginia Commonwealth University, Undergraduate Post-Bacc Health Sciences Certificate
The fall of 2010 was marked with new beginnings for Shauna Pace Spanos and her daughter. Within a month of Hallie starting kindergarten, her mom started medical school. Pursuing the dream of a career in medicine comes with some sacrifices – sacrifices that are easier to bear with the help of the Annual Fund.
When did you know you wanted to be a doctor? Did any particular experience spark that decision?
My interest in medicine originated when a good friend was paralyzed due to a tumor on her spinal cord and my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I had to put myself through college and chose to stay close to home and continue working while going to school. Going to the business school was the easiest thing to do while trying to work and go to college. My focus became finishing school and earning a salary.
While on maternity leave with my first daughter, Hallie, I did a lot of reflection on my career and where I was headed. I realized I was working in Information Technology to earn a pay check, not because I was passionate about it. I reconsidered medicine and my husband was 100 percent supportive. Being a new mom helped. I wanted to show my children that you could accomplish your goals and dreams with hard work and determination.
Why did you choose the MCV Campus?
I attended VCU for my post baccalaureate in health sciences and master’s certificate in anatomy/neurobiology and really fell in love with the school and the people. VCU is making investments in facilities and the curriculum. The faculty and staff really go above and beyond to help the students and take a genuine interest in them. The people I have met have been extremely supportive and encouraging, especially given that I have three small children (Hallie 5, Whitney 2 and Annie James 1).
Did you experience any challenges when you applied to medical school?
The main challenge was the three plus years it took to fulfill all of the requirements for applying and adjusting to being a mom while spending time to pursue medicine as a career.
Have you needed to make any sacrifices as you purse your medical degree?
The biggest sacrifices have been money and time. Financially, it is a burden to pay for day care tuition for three children and tuition for myself. Day care is not cheap these days and three at a time is over the top. My husband, Stephen, bears this burden the most as he tries to support all of us. I also feel guilty when we leave our girls at day care until 5:30 p.m. every day. But, I try to do all of my studying while on campus so that when I am with my girls they have my undivided attention.
A great burden is on my heart when I feel like we are forcing our kids to make sacrifices that they didn’t ask for. But I remind myself (and with my husband’s support) that in the end this is right for our kids too. I believe we are teaching them about hard work and making sacrifices to achieve a greater goal, all while making family the top priority.
What is it like to be starting medical school at the same time that your oldest daughter is starting kindergarten?
I’ve been pursuing this dream since shortly after her birth so it is really a neat experience to finally start as a M1 and seeing her start school. I hated missing her first day of school, but she also had to start a new routine that she had to adjust to. I hope that this will have a positive effect on all of my children as they become independent, determined young ladies with big dreams.
I feel like we’ve taken on a new chapter in both of our lives and we are lucky that we get to do it together.
What kind of family support do you have for these next four years?
My greatest support is my husband. I think he is the real hero and makes the biggest sacrifices. When exam time comes around, I have it easy. I get to go study by myself for hours and my husband has to take care of all three girls by himself. Many times he has to spend all weekend caring for them and finding things to occupy them during the day. They are so young and still so needy. You don’t get any rest! And he still encourages me that I am doing the right thing when I start questioning if the sacrifices are worth it. We are a great team in supporting each other and parenting. I also have extended family in Richmond. My in-laws pick up the girls one night a week and get them ready for bed and help out whenever else we ask them to. My grandmother comes to visit for long weekends and helps Stephen with the girls around exam time. I have a sister who enjoys taking the girls for a day or two. My parents and other siblings are further away, but offer words of encouragement.
Did the Aesculapian Scholarship influence your decision to come here?
It is making it easier for me. With three small kids it is wonderful to receive assistance for my education. We are making a lot of sacrifices as a family and I was extremely excited to know that I had received a scholarship my first year.
If you could thank an Annual Fund donor in person what you would say?
THANK YOU! This money helps relieve some of my financial burden and allows me to focus that energy on studying and my family. This has also inspired me to one day do the same and give back to help others achieve their dreams in such an incredible career.
What are you most looking forward to in medical school?
I am really looking forward to clinical rotations. I know this time period will bring additional challenges as it will take me away from my family even more, but I believe it will feel like I really have made it through. I will finally be working with the patients.
What has been your most memorable experience on the MCV Campus?
All the wonderful people I have met, the faculty and staff and my classmates!
Only a little more than 51 percent of the medical student body receives scholarship support. Gifts to the Annual Fund create Aesculapian Scholarships, which are used to recruit top incoming students as well as to reward current students who demonstrate outstanding merit. If you make your gift by the end of June, your support will go directly to create additional scholarships that will be awarded in the fall. This year, your gift can affect twice as many students, because the Dean of Medicine has committed to matching all gifts to the Annual Fund, dollar-for-dollar if received by June 30, 2011! Please make your gift today by visiting www.GiveNow.vcu.edu/Medicine.