Rhodes to greatness

Spencer Dunleavy of Wissinoming is a recent Harvard graduate who will study at Oxford University in England in the fall.

Head of the class: Wissinoming native Spencer Dunleavy received a Rhodes Scholarship, an award given to 32 students nationally. Now, he’s hoping to use his knowledge to help kids in the area apply to college. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

Spencer Dunleavy remembers biking around town, tossing copies of the Northeast Times onto doorsteps when he was a just a kid.

“It was basically slave labor,” the Wissinoming resident said jokingly.

But it was just the start of the long list of hard work Dunleavy has accomplished in his 22 years of life.

He’s a recent graduate from Harvard University, where he concentrated in chemistry and studied psychology as a secondary field.

Graduating Harvard wasn’t enough of an accomplishment. This fall, he will start at the University of Oxford in England, which he will attend as a recipient of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

The scholarship is awarded to 32 students in the United States each year and allows the recipient a full ride to Oxford. It’s given to students for scholarly achievements, character, commitment to the common good and potential leadership abilities, according to its website.

Dunleavy was encouraged to apply by a professor. His resume seemed almost too perfect for it.

His extensive work history includes teaching CPR to volunteers at the American Red Cross in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“It’s great if I understand something, but it’s so much better if other people understand it, because then they can spread it, too,” he said.

“If I know CPR, I’ll save maybe five people in my life, and that’s as a doctor. But if you teach five more people, then suddenly you have five extra people you’re saving.”

His desire to educate others about medical issues comes from a personal place. His mother has Type 1 diabetes, and growing up, his family faced financial struggles.

“If she’s sick and can’t go to work, we didn’t get money for a day, and that’s a huge problem for us,” he said. “Because we don’t have access to great nutritional food all the time, it makes it harder to balance her diet.”

Dunleavy said his mother is able to choose what she eats wisely, but couldn’t imagine a family in his situation that didn’t have the education to know what to eat.

Dunleavy will take two one-year programs at Oxford before returning to the states to go to medical school (at Oxford, he will study education research methods and, hopefully, global research methods). He said he’ll be in school or taking residency for the next 10 years of his life.

What’s it all for? He hopes to be a doctor who educates any underserved patients on medical issues.

“Mental health interacts with physical health, and that can interact with socioeconomic factors to really hurt someone’s lifestyle,” he said.

Dunleavy said if more doctors were aware of this, they could help a more diverse range of patients.

It’s not exactly an easy undertaking. When he presented his idea during the Rhodes interview, a panelist told him he gets only a matter of minutes to see patients, which would not be sufficient time.

“I talked about how I’m not the only one in the healthcare setting. I’ll have social workers, case managers, nurses. There’s a whole team that can do it,” he explained.

Moving to England would be his first time living out of the country — Dunleavy said he hasn’t seen much of the world. That doesn’t stop him from being director of an orphanage in Uganda, though.

After his freshman year roommate got him involved, Dunleavy helped raise more than $30,000 for Raise Uganda Now, an establishment that gives children access to schooling and shelter.

He raises most of the funds through donations. More can be read at RaiseUgandaNow.org

Currently, Dunleavy is on a rare break between classes. Until he starts at Oxford, he is tutoring people back in his hometown.

Recalling biking around town tossing copies of the Times, he’s hoping to use the paper to deliver a different message.

“If there are kids who don’t have parents who went to college and don’t know how to navigate applying, I’m hoping this will open up people to reach out to me,” he said. ••

Dunleavy said he wants to be a resource for people in the community. Anyone interested in receiving his help to apply to college can contact him by emailing Spencer.Dunleavy at gmail.com