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MDS Musings Blog

Dr. Jennifer Spicer (2003)
Internist and Infectious Disease Specialist; Professor at Emory University School of Medicine

How did your MDS experience affect where you are today?

MDS strongly impacted my social and academic development. This school helped me gain the skills that I needed to succeed in college, and the teachers that I had were extremely supportive. Many of my teachers at MDS are some of my most influential early career mentors. I met my husband (Jason Spicer), who is also an alumnus of MDS, and I still have strong friendships with a number of my high school friends.

Describe your undergraduate and graduate school path?

I went to the University of Georgia for undergrad and double majored in marine sciences and microbiology. After graduating, I started medical school at Emory University, where I also completed a master of public health (MPH) in epidemiology. I stayed at Emory University to complete my internal medicine residency and was asked to stay on an extra year to serve as a chief resident at Grady Memorial Hospital. I started my infectious diseases fellowship at Emory University in July 2016, and I will graduate in June 2019 and will be a full-time faculty physician, likely at Emory University.

How did you become interested in medicine?

Both of my parents were physicians, so I was exposed to medicine from an early age. When I was younger, though, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I started college and took courses in microbiology that I realized that I really loved the interaction between people, microbes, and the environment. I also realized that I loved hearing people’s stories about their lives, and I saw medicine as a way to form personal relationships with people while also applying my love of microbiology. As a bonus, I have the opportunity to teach both my patients and other healthcare providers every day, so I still get to embrace my love of teaching.

Describe a day in your life on the job.

One of the best parts of my job is that it differs from one day to the next. Because I’m at an academic institution rather than in private practice, my job entails more than just the clinical care of patients. For eight weeks of the year, I am on the inpatient clinical infectious diseases service. When I’m working inpatient, I serve as a consultant to any physician in the hospital who needs help managing infections. Once a week I work in an HIV clinic taking care of patients who lack health insurance, which is probably the most rewarding part of my job. The rest of the year I split my time between teaching (medical students, residents, and fellows) and doing research. Currently, I am doing research with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to explore why physicians and patients use antibiotics inappropriately.

Do you have advice for students entering the science/medical fields?

There are many ways to get involved in science and/or medicine other than being a physician. Although being a physician is the right choice for many people, it is definitely a long and difficult pathway. I would encourage students to explore all of their options and find the best fit for them. Potential job opportunities in science include being a teacher (at the elementary, high school, or collegiate level), a researcher (in a variety of fields), a medical technician, a public health practitioner, a nurse, a pharmacist, a physical therapist, a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant, and many, many others. The day-to-day activities, lifestyle, training, and salary differ between each of these fields, so it’s important to take any possible opportunity to shadow and/or talk to people about their careers.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of medicine?

My husband and I love to travel, and we have been all over the world. Antarctica was the most exotic location I’ve ever visited, which I was fortunate to be able to do as part of a study-abroad program at the University of Georgia. When we travel, we like to try new food, hike, and scuba dive. When we are at home, we spend most of our time playing with our dog and taking her with us to explore Atlanta.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

When considering your future job, consider two things: what do you enjoy doing and what kind of lifestyle you want. My dad gave me that advice when I was in high school and continued to tell me that throughout college. It’s important that you enjoy your job since it’s what you spend much of your time doing every day, but you also need to consider what you want to do in life and whether your future job hours and/or salary will support that lifestyle. Although I spend a lot of time at work, I love what I do, so it’s still enjoyable to me. I make a good salary, but I forfeited higher-paying medical specialties and opportunities because I knew that my current salary would be more than enough to support the traveling that I love to do.

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Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, which is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served  a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.