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Lindsay Speros Robbins (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Brody grad follows father into primary care

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

(May 6, 2014)   —   Lindsay Speros Robbins embarked on several new adventures as a medical student at East Carolina University – marriage and motherhood among them. But the Brody School of Medicine was always something well known to the 2014 graduate.

Her father, Dr. Thomas L. Speros, was a member of the first group of ECU medical students to enroll more than 40 years ago. He and 19 others joined a one-year program that became the foundation for the medical school.

“I enjoyed being a part of building something brand new,” Speros recalled in a recent interview. “I felt like a pioneer, like my grandfather who came over from Greece with $18 in his pocket and not speaking a word of English. I always felt that this region needed a first-class tertiary care center, and I knew it would mean more to the region than people could imagine.”

Speros was at his daughter’s side during Match Day, when she learned she would spend her next several years in residency at UNC-Chapel Hill. He wasn’t surprised that Robbins chose medicine and was delighted at her decision. Though he never encouraged or discouraged that path, Robbins said his actions were influential.

“His career was another member of our family,” Robbins said. “It played such a big part in our day-to-day existence. And he was so fulfilled by what he did, it was hard to think of doing anything else.”

Like many Brody graduates, Speros became a champion for primary care, serving eastern North Carolina as a family physician and, for a time, as president of the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians. Robbins recalls many occasions when her father was called on to examine stubbed toes or broken bones in their neighborhood.

“He’d be the one first on the scene,” Robbins recalled. “I was always right there watching.”

Still, it took her some time to figure out she was certain about a career in medicine – to really consider what had been a foregone conclusion, she said.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in biology from UNC-Chapel Hill, she moved to New York City – and away from medicine – for a couple years. While there, she volunteered with a local emergency department. That experience prompted her to pursue a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University.

“You really see the failures of the health care system at large in an inner city setting,” she said. “I finally saw firsthand what (Dad) had been fighting for.”

She imagined a role in health management, but the pull to work with patients proved too great. So she returned to eastern North Carolina, and to Brody.

“It just felt like time to come home,” Robbins said. “And the mission really resonated with me.”

“We have such strong role models in primary care (at Brody),” she continued. “They’re so committed and passionate and fulfilled by it. Just like my dad.”

For those coming up behind her, Robbins has some advice: Soak in as much as possible from those faculty role models and choose your specialty carefully.

“Pick something that’s worth the sacrifice,” she said, as she feels she did by choosing obstetrics and gynecology. Robbins realizes that her profession may mean holidays spent in the hospital instead of at home. And she’s grateful to her husband, Henry Robbins, and her family for their constant support.

“When I worry (about leaving her son on holidays), Henry reminds me, ‘He’ll understand that you’re helping people. There’s a reason you’re not here and it’s a good reason.’”

Robbins stands with her father, Dr. Thomas L. Speros, during Match Day at ECU. Speros was a member of the first group of medical students to enroll at ECU. (Contributed photo)
Robbins stands with her father, Dr. Thomas L. Speros, during Match Day at ECU. Speros was a member of the first group of medical students to enroll at ECU. (Contributed photo)