Persistence Pays Off: How 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor (Finally) Became a USU Medical Student

Class of 2027 student at the Uniformed Services University's School of Medicine, 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor, shares his six year journey to get accepted at the military medical school.

Army 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor started attending medical school at USU after applying to become a student for six years. Here, Spoor stands with his family during the School of Medicine's White Coat Ceremony, an event symbolizing the transition from classroom learning to patient care. (Photo courtesy of Army 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor)
Army 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor started attending medical school at USU after applying to 
become a student for six years. Here, Spoor stands with his family during the School of 
Medicine's White Coat Ceremony, an event symbolizing the transition from classroom 
learning to patient care. (Photo courtesy of Army 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor)

May 14, 2024 by Ian Neligh

Even after six years, Alexander Spoor wasn’t ready to toss in the towel.

He decided he was never going to quit applying to attend medical school at the Uniformed Services University (USU) and so, he tried year after year. And while other medical schools were interested in him, Spoor says his sights
were only focused on attending USU to become a military physician.

2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor
Army 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor, class of 2027
student at USU's School of Medicine.
(Photo credit: Tom Balfour, USU)
“I might be close to the record for the person who’s applied the longest,” Spoor jokes.

With each rejection, it gave him the opportunity to ask himself if attending USU was really what he wanted. 

Unequivocally, the answer was always “yes.” 

And with each rejection, he dusted himself off, evaluated what would make him a better candidate and tried again.

Now-Army 2nd Lt.  Spoor has begun his journey at USU after being accepted by the university, exemplifying the old saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Spoor comes from a family who have proudly served in the U.S. military for three generations. His grandfather was a pilot in World War II and retired from the Air Force. His father was in the Marine Corps and his sister also served in the Air Force.

“The military has treated my family really well,” Spoor says. “I think that’s kind of why I wanted to give back to the country that gave my family everything we have.”

His inspiration to attend USU and become a physician began while attending the University of Colorado in Boulder for his undergraduate degree in Integrated Physiology.

During his sophomore year he watched the PBS show, “Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield” which features USU and Dr. Eric Elster, professor and dean of the university’s F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine.

Then, as now, Spoor was interested in the work being done with battlefield medicine, prosthetics and how the technology allows amputees to not only move but to feel as well.

“I thought that was amazing,” says Spoor, who immediately wrote to Elster saying he was interested in learning more about work in prosthetics, medical school and possibly attending USU in the future. Spoor says he found Elster friendly, helpful and encouraging, which inspired him.

“So the first experience I had with the school was (incredible),” says Spoor, adding he never forgot about USU and planned one day to attend.

He knew early on that becoming a physician was what he wanted to dedicate his life to.

“I’ve always wanted to do something that changes the world for the better in whatever way I can,” says Spoor.

Spoor has helped in his family business of providing houses for the homeless veterans. He’s also worked in construction, gold mining and participated in athletics.

“If I do races all over the world and get to travel and have a lot of fun and compete, that’d be an amazing life — but I thought at the end of the day what would make me most fulfilled is helping the people who did not choose to have certain injuries or diseases and help them choose the challenges they want in their life…” says Spoor. “I want them to be able to choose those difficulties instead of having them chosen for them.”

Spoor later attended Colorado’s Regis University, where he earned his master’s degree in biomedical science and he continued to apply to USU. He says he never once felt like giving up. The university was too much of a perfect fit for his goals.

“I’d always known I was not going to do anything else, I was going to keep applying until I got in,” says Spoor. “I think the challenge was more ‘what have I done this last year that I should add to my application to make me better?’ And I think it was hard for me to keep up being better every year because at some point I had thousands of hours of clinical experience and I had research projects, and a lot of community service.”

A group of soldiers sit together aboard a vehicle. They are all smiling.
Since becoming a medical student at USU, Spoor (left) says he feels like he is now exactly where he needs to be.
(Photo courtesy of Army 2nd Lt. Alexander Spoor)

However, he began exploring new hobbies and traveling, which he believes ultimately helped him mature and was reflected in his application essay.

“You’re going to represent that school for the rest of your life and I think that’s what kept me coming back here. I wanted this school to be part of my history,” Spoor says.

When Spoor heard he’d finally been accepted, he was staying in Japan with his grandmother. The call came in at 3 a.m.

“It was an amazing day. Yeah, just a wave of happiness and big relief. My mom is in Japan, and we have a traditional house, so we all sleep in a big room with tatami mats and blankets. And so I woke everyone up …we had a little family huddle and it was amazing just being with the people I love when I heard the news.”

Just recently, Spoor finally had the opportunity to meet with Elster in person and share that, not only did he get into USU, but that the School of Medicine dean helped to inspire his journey. 

For his part, Elster says he is encouraged by Spoor’s commitment to helping others.

"Although I'm very pleased to have served as an inspiration, I am more inspired by 2nd Lt. Spoor and his determination to serve,” Elster says. “Spoor and his fellow students have chosen a life of sacrifice and service, and I'm proud of their selflessness and dedication."

Since becoming a student at USU, Spoor has shadowed at Walter Reed’s Peripheral Nerve Clinic and is looking for related research projects to work on. He was the team captain for a Ragnar race, a 120-mile trail relay in April, is planning to attend Air Assault School this summer and is also volunteering with a local Scouting America troop. 

“Everything is going better than I hoped,” Spoor says. “I feel like I am exactly where I need to be at the time I am meant to be here.”