Very rarely can you identify students who are so advanced that they start high school at 11 and college by 15. Spundan Davé, a Saint Leo University MBA alumnus, can lay claim to this highly unique characteristic.
Now 27, Davé was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH. He has an older adopted sister, Birva. He is currently pursuing a second master's degree at one of the nation's top medical schools, located in New York City.
A Life-Changing Move
The son of immigrants from India, he recounts their dramatic journey to the United States.
"My parents moved to the U.S. in 1993 before I was born," he explains. "My dad had an opportunity to become a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati. They literally came with $80 in their pockets. When they landed, the cab fare from the airport to the student dorms was $20, so they had to ration their money for the rest of that first week."
Despite their humble beginnings in America, his parents ultimately found highly successful careers in education. His dad, Dr. Vrushank Davé, is now an associate professor of pathology, cell biology, and oncological sciences at the University of South Florida. His mother, Yogini, teaches gifted students at Kimbell and Shaw Elementary Schools, both in Tampa.
Recognizing a Talented Student
According to Davé, his mom started seeing something special in him at a very young age.
"She quickly realized I was gifted in math and language," he says. "When I got bored, I would actually work on math problems. So, she found a school that offered an exam for advanced kids to skip a few grades. One Saturday morning, she took me in and I scored really high. I was able to skip the sixth and seventh grades."
It was Covington Latin School in nearby Covington, KY where he took the school-administered Scholastic Testing Service (STS) Educational Development Series exam for fifth, sixth, and seventh graders. He completed his high school diploma there at only 15.
Flocking South to Sunny Florida
In 2010, the Davé family relocated to Tampa, FL after his dad was offered a position at USF and his mom found an opportunity with Hillsborough County Schools. Davé then embarked on his college career at USF before he could even get a driver's license.
"I was very young and impressionable at that time," he recalls. "You can have a high IQ but may not have an adequate EQ (emotional quotient) at that point. I honestly drifted a bit from academia and was more interested in socializing and networking."
He made it about three-quarters of the way through his bachelor's in public health degree program before meeting with his dean who offered him some wise words.
"She recognized I was struggling as such a young college student," he recalls. "She recommended I consider going into the military where I would get a more regimented lifestyle. That was the best advice anyone had ever given me in my life."
Transitioning to a New Life in the Service
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in the fall of 2014 and did basic training at Fort Benning in Georgia. He then worked as a medical laboratory technician/specialist with stints at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, HI.
"I had worked in a research lab in college, so it was a good fit for me," he says. "I got to work in a chemistry lab doing diagnostics. I learned how important working in a lab is because a doctor can't make a diagnosis until we do our work with a patient on the lab side."
He took online courses to complete his public health degree in 2017 while still enlisted. In the Army, he earned seven medals for his service. Upon getting out of the military, he wanted to remain connected and went into the Army Reserves. He spent time assisting at 301st Field Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL.
And what did he learn most from his military service?
"In those five years, I really grew within myself," he confides. "It taught me discipline I had been lacking before. It also taught me about the importance of service to others. I now consider myself to be a service-oriented leader."
His Path to Saint Leo University's MBA Program
Thanks to some of his friends who had attended Saint Leo University, he became aware of the school and further researched its academic offerings.
"I saw they offered multiple MBA specializations with flexible, hybrid options. Other MBA programs I came across were more generic. I really liked the idea of the healthcare management specialization. I also liked how Saint Leo has such a long history, a great reputation in the area, and is considered a very military-friendly university."
In the spring of 2019, he enrolled in the Master of Business Administration in healthcare management program. It took him just one year to complete the graduate degree program by the spring of 2020.
Influential Faculty in the MBA in Healthcare Management Program
There were several faculty members in the MBA program who were memorable to him.
"I learned a tremendous amount in Dr. [Adam] Shoemaker's HR class," he says. "He was great at simplifying the material so it was easy to understand. In the military, the HR structure is different compared to the corporate world. I needed to understand the corporate structure of managing employees if I were to hold such an administrative position."
Another professor, Dr. Helen MacLennan, was a big help during such a sudden transition in March of 2020.
"Dr. MacLennan taught the last semester of my capstone course right when we were transitioning from on-ground to online classes because of COVID-19. She was always available by email and on Zoom and was there to help us out whenever we needed something."
Attending Saint Leo's Tampa Education Center
For part of his MBA coursework, Davé attended Saint Leo's Tampa Education Center in its former Channelside location before the university moved the center to its current facility.
"It was a very diverse group of students going there," he recalls. "Some had just finished their bachelor's degrees and were early on in their careers. Others were well into their careers working in mid-tier management roles. Some even worked at Tampa General Hospital and BayCare. I felt like I could talk to both my professors and classmates for career advice. It was great to be able to get this insight."
He adds that the Tampa Education Center had such a welcoming environment with so much support.
"I enjoyed the vibe there. The classrooms were on a very quiet floor. Plus, along with your professors, there were advisors there who were always readily available to help you."
Connecting with Saint Leo's Core Values
He says two Saint Leo core values resonated with him.
"Because I went to a Catholic school environment in high school, I definitely appreciate the close-knit Catholic value of community. I felt a great sense of belonging at Saint Leo. Also, personal development has been a big one in my life having been thrown to the sharks for college at 15, so to speak, and entering the military at 19. Saint Leo also helped me develop as a person as well."
Considering a Graduate Degree from Saint Leo University? Take His Advice
When asked why he would recommend Saint Leo University, he immediately points to the instructors.
"Seriously consider Saint Leo because of the professors. They really bring valuable, professional experience to the classroom. At other schools, a lot of the faculty have mostly worked in academia and focus more on a theoretical approach to teaching. You can get a better balance at Saint Leo."
He explains how he managed to juggle his graduate studies with other obligations.
"Time management is very important," he explains. "You should plan accordingly throughout the week and look at committing an hour or two in the evenings to focus on schoolwork. Also, tell your family members and friends that you will need some alone time to be able to do this."
Carving out a Post-Military Career
While a Saint Leo MBA student, he did an internship with the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce. Currently, he is working toward a second master's degree in public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
"I did my undergrad in public health. Now having the MBA as well, I decided I'd continue to further my education, especially at a time when it's still a bit challenging to find work during the pandemic."
This summer, he started a digital publication called Biolysis Weekly.
"It's basically a newsletter covering the intersection of finance and the field of biology. I follow a lot of biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to find out the latest cutting-edge research they are doing. I look at FDA and SEC filings, clinical trials, and other activities these companies are involved in. I then run buy and sell analyses on these companies from a public trading standpoint and write about my findings. I've already been endorsed by some people on Wall Street, which has been very exciting."
And what is his ultimate career goal?
"I'd love to work in hospital administration, whether it's department administration or clinical lab administration."
When not studying and working on his newsletter, he enjoys playing tennis, the outdoors, and hopes to pick up the violin again which he played in his youth.
FOLLOW HIM ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow Spundan Davé on Twitter.
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog article was provided by Spundan Davé and is used with permission.