Commencement 2013 : Honorary Class Speaker

Zachary E. HolcombZach Holcomb--Honorary Class Speaker


Zack Holcomb planned to become a pharmacist, but a medical mission trip to Belize and a volunteer stint at a regional free health clinic altered the Big Stone Gap native’s plans.


“I decided I wanted to go to medical school and become a physician,” the 22-year-old said. “I want to return to Southwest Virginia and practice medicine around here.”


Holcomb, a chemistry major, was deeply touched by the health care needs he saw in Belize in 2012 and at the Remote Area Medical clinic in Wise, a free health clinic that draws thousands from the East Coast each July.


“I think my plans changed when I saw how appreciative the people in Belize were to get the health care that we provided,” he said. “They were so grateful, and that made me want to go into the medical field.”


His new plans solidified when he saw the long lines at the three-day RAM clinic.


“I was amazed at how many people showed up and how long they were willing to wait for basic medical care that I always took for granted,” he said. “It was amazing that such a simple thing that we were doing was making such a difference.”


Holcomb applied for admission to Duke University School of Medicine and was accepted. He goes for orientation in early August.


Another factor in Holcomb’s new career plan was his decision to attend UVa-Wise. He thought attending a larger college would make it easier to get into a post-graduate program, but he soon realized the opposite was true.


“I soon came to see that I had tons of opportunities at UVa-Wise that I would not have had at other colleges or universities,” he said. “Coming here propelled me into medical school. My professors and the staff prepared me well.”


Holcomb was a tennis standout for the Cavaliers during his time at UVa-Wise. His four years on the court became something he treasures.


“Tennis takes a lot of time, but I saw it as a stress reliever,” he said. “It let me relax for a while and let loose.”


Holcomb is the son of Thurman E. Holcomb Jr. and Deborah R Holcomb of Big Stone Gap. His younger brother, Lucas D. Holcomb, is a freshman at UVa-Wise.