Holcomb is Class of 2013 honorary speaker
Zack Holcomb planned to
become a pharmacist, but a medical mission trip to Belize and a volunteer stint
at a regional free health clinic altered the Big Stone Gap native’s plans.
“I decided I wanted to go to medical
school and become a physician,” the 22-year-old said. “I want to return to
Southwest Virginia and practice medicine around here.”
Holcomb, a chemistry major,
was deeply touched by the health care needs he saw in Belize in 2012 and at the
Remote Area Medical clinic in Wise, a free health clinic that draws thousands
from the East Coast each July.
“I think my plans changed
when I saw how appreciative the people in Belize were to get the health care
that we provided,” he said. “They were so grateful, and that made me want to go
into the medical field.”
His new plans solidified when
he saw the long lines at the three-day RAM clinic.
“I was amazed at how many
people showed up and how long they were willing to wait for basic medical care
that I always took for granted,” he said. “It was amazing that such a simple
thing that we were doing was making such a difference.”
Holcomb applied for admission
to Duke University School of Medicine and was accepted. He goes for orientation
in early August.
Another factor in Holcomb’s
new career plan was his decision to attend UVa-Wise. He thought attending a
larger college would make it easier to get into a post-graduate program, but he
soon realized the opposite was true.
“I soon came to see that I
had tons of opportunities at UVa-Wise that I would not have had at other
colleges or universities,” he said. “Coming here propelled me into medical
school. My professors and the staff prepared me well.”
Holcomb was a tennis standout
for the Cavaliers during his time at UVa-Wise. His four years on the court
became something he treasures.
“Tennis takes a lot of time,
but I saw it as a stress reliever,” he said. “It let me relax for a while and let
Holcomb is the son of Thurman
E. Holcomb Jr. and Deborah R Holcomb of Big Stone Gap. His younger brother,
Lucas D. Holcomb, is a freshman at UVa-Wise. He will deliver his speech at Commencement on May 18 at 11 a.m. on the Lawn by the Lake.