From Marshall County to the Mayo Clinic: one medical student’s journey

As the first person in his family to attend college, 26-year-old University of Kentucky medical student Clayton Spiceland has set the bar pretty high.

This Saturday, Spiceland — and 124 of his classmates — will be “hooded” during the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s graduation ceremony. Spiceland’s next stop? The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he will complete a residency in internal medicine.

It’s a dream come true for the Palma, Ky. resident, who knew in high school that he wanted to become a doctor and take care of others. As a senior at Marshall County High School and during his freshman and sophomore years at UK, Spiceland took a summer job in the office of Dr. John Tveite to gain experience in the medical setting. The family practice setting appealed to him.

“I liked the amount of patient contact you have in internal medicine,” Spiceland said.

After earning an undergraduate degree in biology, Spiceland chose to stay at UK for his medical degree, citing UK’s student-friendly environment as a main reason for staying.

“I felt very connected to UK and was very active as an undergraduate,” he said. “That’s why I decided to continue here for my medical degree.”

The four years of work for a medical degree leads not only to graduation, but also to the next phase of a young physician’s career. Each year, the senior class faces the challenge of choosing a type of residency and where they would like to fulfill it.

Spiceland applied to the Mayo Clinic and put it at the top of his wish list due to their strong program for internal medicine. The interview process was intimidating, with more than 400 applicants vying for less than 50 spots, but Spiceland said he simply stayed true to himself.

“Interviewing for residency can be overwhelming, but you have to be yourself to find the program that is the best fit for you,” Spiceland said.

After numerous applications, interviews, and waiting, each student learns where they’re “matched” for a residency during an annual ceremony known as “Match Day.” With friends, family, and UK College of Medicine faculty looking on, each student takes the stage, accepts an envelope with their fate sealed inside, and opens it in front of the crowd to announce the verdict.

“[The Mayo Clinic] was my first choice, but I was still nervous,” Spiceland said of the Match Day experience. “You interview everywhere, and you hope they liked you, too. But to get to go up there and open your envelope and see your number one choice – that’s an unreal feeling.”

While at Mayo, Spiceland plans to complete

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a three-year residency, where he will get the chance to rotate through several different subspecialties before deciding which one he will ultimately pursue as a fellowship. When he has completed his training, Spiceland and his wife, Lauren, hope to move back home to Western Kentucky, where he plans to practice medicine.

Ever humble, Spiceland gives credit to those who have helped him along the way – his parents for instilling a strong work ethic, Tveite for early work experience, and UK’s Dr. Chipper Griffith for help and counsel during medical school. Though he could have attended any number of other medical schools in the country, Spiceland says he wouldn’t trade his years at UK for anything.

“[UK] has prepared students here to be able to go anywhere, and I think this is a good example,” Spiceland said. “You can be from Kentucky and go to the University of Kentucky, and then be prepared to match anywhere in the country.”


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