Tue | Dec 7, 2021

Dr Alicia Swaby-Spencer defies odds to pursue dreams

Published:Sunday | August 8, 2021 | 12:08 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer -

Dr Alicia Swaby- Spencer (centre) is surrounded by her family and biggest support system from left: Millicent Swaby, mother, Andrew Spencer, husband and her son and daughter Andrew Spencer Jr and Amia Spencer.
Dr Alicia Swaby- Spencer (centre) is surrounded by her family and biggest support system from left: Millicent Swaby, mother, Andrew Spencer, husband and her son and daughter Andrew Spencer Jr and Amia Spencer.
Dr Alicia Swaby-Spencer
Dr Alicia Swaby-Spencer

MANDEVILLE, Manchester

Whether it is pushing through on three hours of sleep, jumping between her private practice and the public hospital or balancing her roles as a mother of two, a wife and entrepreneur, Dr Alicia Swaby-Spencer is learning to master the art of making the life in years count.

At the mention of her name, persons who have knowledge of her story will almost immediately describe the medical doctor as strength and determination personified.

Raised by her mother Millicent Swaby in a rural community in St James after her father and sister died in a car accident, Swaby-Spencer watched her mother work as a farmer to provide for her and her younger brother.

It was that spirit of perseverance, her dream and her late father’s wish, that kept her steadily on the path of becoming a medical doctor.

But her journey was far from smooth sailing and Swaby-Spencer had to learn to manoeuvre the potholes or get left behind.

“Becoming a doctor seemed almost impossible due to my financial constraints. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifices. The summer before starting medical school, I worked at NHT (National Housing Trust) in the days and Everybody’s Pharmacy in Kingston in the evenings, to save and secure funds for my study. I applied for several scholarships and bursaries and was the recipient of the NCB (National Commercial Bank) Foundation scholarship, Rotary Club of St Andrew, and many others.”

Though she had her tuition secured, she struggled to find money for food and transportation but soon learnt survival tactics that have stuck with her to this day.

“Whilst in medical school, I worked on campus in the evenings after my classes and then would have to study at nights. There were days I didn’t have money for food or transportation and would have to stay over at the library to minimise my expenses. I was also blessed with amazing friends who were always willing to share with me. Despite all the challenges, I successfully secured a spot on the Dean’s list for multiple semesters.”

As she was hitting her home stretch, Swaby-Spencer had to prepare for a new role and was faced with the challenge of either persevering or sitting out.

“I became a mother in fourth year of medical school. It was the hardest year, but I was determined not to quit or take time off. I walked with my cushion to support me where needed and my husband today was always there to transport me around campus. In fact, that year, I obtained my highest GPA and got the highest grade in two of my rotations,” she told Family and Religion.

Fast-forward to present day, a husband, a second child and full-time jobs, Swaby-Spencer has never wavered in her pursuit to do what she believes she was placed on this Earth to do.

“Balancing my family life with work has always been difficult, more so because my children are at the age that demands a lot of attention. But I have managed to do so through proper time management and the amazing support system/staff I have. My husband and my mother are extremely helpful. They both are always there for me, filling in when I’m exhausted or feel burnt out.”

With a sometimes tight, demanding schedule, Swaby- Spencer said she has to ensure her slow days are used for rejuvenation, staycations and complete family time.

“My busiest day would be a day where I have an early morning appointment at my office to finish in time to go to the hospital at 8 a.m., then back at my office in the evening again. Then coming home to cook, putting the kids to bed and going back to the hospital to do a surgery in the late night, reaching home sometimes 3 a.m. to wake for work at 6 a.m.

“The slowest day would be a holiday when I’m not on duty at the hospital and both me and my husband are home. I go on vacations a lot. Each month, there is a family outing. I alternate with my husband alone and then with the kids. We go to the hotel, beach, river, movies, restaurant, park, visit a relative or other attractions. We go to church, Saturdays and Sundays are spent as family time - where we watch a movie or play games,” she added

Holding her greatest achievements as her family and home, her academic pursuits, her two businesses - Grove Court Medical Services and A &A Safety and Security Consultants Limited - and her philanthropic efforts of donating to children’s homes and offering scholarships to primary school students, Swaby–Spencer is looking forward to completing a specialisation in ophthalmology and helping others where she can.

Her encouragement to others is to “dream big and never allow your socioeconomic background to limit your potential. The sky is the limit and you are the limiting factor”.