Top Surgeon, Dr. Spencer Holover, joins Kurt Caceres to discuss his insurmountable climb to the top.
Updated: Mar 26
"You should quit, you'll never make it", says Dr. Spencer Holover. This Jewish-American kid from Livingston, New Jersey, always wanted to be a surgeon. "I like working with my hands" he said. However, he almost wasn't able to achieve these dreams. Climbing the ladder in the Medical field is one of the toughest in the world. Unless you've experienced it, or know someone who has, you'd have no idea the hierarchy within. It's almost identical to that of an actor in Hollywood.
Dr. Holover applied to medical schools all over the country and was either denied or ignored, over and over again. He had no choice but to attend a foreign medical school located on a tiny island in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, at St. George University in Grenada, West Indies. "Everyone thought it must have been fun and like a vacation" says Dr. Holover, "but no, it sucked". What most don't realize is that going to a foreign medical school is the bottom of the barrel. Automatically you are put into a position where you will never reach the upper echelon of the medical field once returning to the states. All the top specialties are rarely open to those who attend foreign schools, so he would never be able to become a Surgeon, Dermatologist, Urologist or any other top level specialty. However, the difference in life between those that make it and those that don't, is one's belief in themselves, persistence and work ethic. He was told repeatedly he would never make it, to the point where he almost decided to change to Law School.
The medical student and actor have a journey that correlates in so many ways. Studying for years. Living with roomates in studio apartments. Rejection. Colleagues with drug and alcohol abuse. Stress. Even Dr. Holover says that nothing is guaranteed. He knew a few guys who spent four to five years struggling, only to find themselves not being able to handle the pressure, and eventually quitting. And when they do finally complete all the schooling and training, they have a $700,000 student loan debt to pay.
Dr. Holover tells about the time he had an interview in Pittsburgh, while doing his residency in NYC on 60 hour work weeks. He had to attend the interview but couldn't afford the plane ticket. He couldn't drive because he had to work a 24 hour shift the next day, and if he drove, he wouldn't be able to get any sleep before the shift. So he ended up taking a bus and ironically sitting next to a gentleman who was extremely obese. He had a feeling that he was in the right place, and this encounter wasn't coincidence. The odds of him getting into the prestigious Pittsburgh Medical Center were slim to none, but as luck would have it, a young gentleman took a liking to Dr. Holover's personality. This young man just so happened to be a third generation legacy of a respected family affiliated with the University. Out of hundreds of candidates, Dr. Spencer Holover got the one spot available because this young man put in a word for him as a result of them crossing paths and having a lunch together. "When that door opens, you'd better be ready, this is where luck happened and preparation met opportunity" says Dr. Holover. And he did just that.
Dr. Spencer Holover completed a Minimally Invasive Bariatric Fellowship with pioneering Bariatric surgeon, Dr. Phil Schauer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. While at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Holover held the academic appointment of Clinical Professor of Surgery. While at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Holover perfomed the Sleeve Gastrectomy. This makes him one of the earliest surgeons in the world to do this operation. In addition, he published one of the earliest articles ever written on the Sleeve Gastrectomy. The article appeared in a leading laparoscopic-bariatric journal, Surgical Endoscopy, titled “Laparoscopic Sleeve gastrectomy as an initial weight-loss procedure for high-risk patients with morbid obesity”, in April of 2006.
Dr. Holover has performed over:
1200 Laparoscopic Gastric Bypasses.
2500 Sleeve Gastrectomy procedures.
14,000 surgical endoscopies.
He is one of the first and most experienced surgeons on Long Island to perform Single Incision Lap-Band Surgery (SILS). Dr. Holover has also received the “Patient Choice Award” as one of “New York State’s Favorite Physicians” multiple times as well as having been voted one of the “Most Compassionate Doctors” in the country multiple times. In addition, he was voted one of The Consumer Council of America’s list of “Top Surgeons in the Country”. Dr. Holover is also a New York State Police Investigators Association Police Surgeon and has been featured as an expert guest on CBS News, KJOY, Telecare and WHPC.