It was the first day of his summer internship at Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South. Spencer Way was walking down the pristine halls of the giant hospital with Kent Tucker who was then vice president for Ancillary Services. To Way’s surprise, Tucker knew every single person they passed. He would ask, How was your trip last weekend? Or, How is your sister doing? During that two-hour tour, Tucker taught Way the most important thing about leadership that he would ever learn.

“People matter first and last,” Way said of what he learned from Tucker.

Not only that, but Tucker picked up trash everywhere he walked on the hospital grounds. One day, Way asked Tucker why he did that, especially when there were others who were paid to keep the grounds clean. Tucker responded, “Everyone needs to pitch in, and it starts with me.”

But Way’s education in leadership began before his internship ever started. In his classes at Union, Way learned from finance professor Kent Stahly that a profession in managing wealth can lead to a purpose-driven life. Barry Forbes, chair of the Division of Business and Computer Science, connected Way to different people at Adventist Health System to inspire and prepare him for a challenging and purpose-driven career.

“It really solidified my experience,” Way said of the internship required of every business student at Union. After he interviewed for his internship at Adventist Health System, the director called to tell him they wanted him but his resume was a little boring. So the director asked, What do you want?

“I told him I wanted an internship that mirrors the residency program, because that’s what I wanted to do after graduation,” Way recalled. Okay, the director said, I’ll make some calls. “I talked to hundreds of people that summer,” Way remembered of his internship experience. “It was a tremendous opportunity to serve.”

After his internship, Way landed a coveted residency position with Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver. By day he works at the hospital and by night he attends classes to earn an MBA at the University of Colorado. With only a few months left in the program, Way is looking forward to a lifetime of service in the healthcare industry.

“If Adventist Health System will have me, I’ll stay as long as I can,” Way says. “It is a privilege to work here.”

Bigger than the bottom line

Looking back, Way credits his experience at Union College with forming the foundation necessary to excel in his career. He knew from the beginning of his freshman year that he wanted a career that challenged him intellectually while providing constant opportunities for growth and learning and, most importantly, the ability to make a difference. “I knew I wouldn’t stick to a career that didn’t have a purpose that was bigger than the bottom line.”

Nevertheless, it wasn’t always an easy journey. Way remembers in his college classes feeling frustrated with how many books he was required to read about ethics and service and the why of business. “I already get it!” he remembered thinking. “Why do they keep trying to sell this to me?”

And yet, Way claims that those same frustrating books on ethics helped form the most important component of his job today. And it’s something he is extremely grateful for. “I rely on the moral compass that I developed at Union more than anything else,” he said.

Reflecting on his daily work in the hospital, Way said one of the main challenges facing the healthcare industry today is the physical distance between the patients and those who make critical decisions affecting them. Without the daily interaction with patients, Way said, it’s easy to drift from their needs. And the only way to face that challenge is with a strong ethical foundation.

“I wouldn’t be in this job now if it weren’t for Union,” Way declared. His search for a career started with values, and ultimately that is where his internship led him: service to something bigger than himself. “For that, I owe Union a deep debt of gratitude.”

Brittany Wren is a freelance writers who spends her days working in the Records Office at Union College.