Tyler and Zack Gray didn't intend to make radiologic sciences a family tradition. It just kind of fell into place for the brothers.
However, their decisions weren't nearly as random as the choice of careers was for their father, Dr. Mark Gray, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of radiologic sciences at the University of Mississippi School of Health Related Professions.
At age 17, Gray was sitting in high school English when the teacher asked the class, “What are you going to do with the rest of your life when you finish high school?”
“I didn't know, but the girl sitting in front of me, I asked her, and she said 'I'm going to radiologic technology school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. You should go,'” Gray said.
He took her advice, and the decision was a wise one. Gray was accepted into the program at 17, finished at 19 and was teaching as a clinical instructor in the radiologic technology program at 20. All the while he worked, Gray continued his education, receiving his doctorate in his 40s.
Tyler, 18 months older than Zack, said he never thought as a kid, “I want to be in radiologic science like my dad.” He was playing football at Ole Miss when an injury put an end to his focus on the sport.
“I started looking into the medical field and thinking about what Dad and my mom had been doing,” he said. “The more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was the right thing for me to do.” Mom, Melissa, who is now retired, worked at UMMC for 10 years as a mammography technologist.
Tyler said his dad was hesitant about this decision. “It's not that he didn't want me to go,” Tyler said. “He wanted to make sure I wasn't just following in his footsteps, that it was what I truly wanted to do.
Tyler didn't stop with the Bachelor of Science in Radiological Sciences program. He will receive his Master of Science in Magnetic Resonance Imaging at Friday's commencement. Since the program was transitioned from a baccalaureate certificate degree, he is in the first classes to receive a master's in MRI.
Zack thought at first that he wanted to be a nurse. He was taking classes at Hinds Community College when he decided it wasn't for him. He contemplated dropping school to enter the workforce, but his dad encouraged him to “pick something and go with it. It might not be what you want right now, but doors will open.”
“I knew that Dad, being who he was in the profession, opened a lot of doors for me. I saw that Tyler was enjoying [the program],” Zack said. “I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.” After summer, he will begin to work towards his master's degree in the MRI program, following in his brother's footsteps.
Dr. Mark Gray, center, said he is proud that his sons have followed in his footsteps.
Gray has taught both of his sons. While they are quick to say that their dad was the best teacher they had, they are also quick to tease him.
“It's really kind of scary because he's not the best pronouncer of some anatomical terms,” said Tyler. “This year for our graduation, he is calling the names for the whole school of SHRP. So he needs to practice that.”
“I'm not that bad!” said Gray. “Some of those anatomical terms are tough to pronounce, and there is nothing wrong with a little creativity. It helps keep the students engaged.”
Despite the teasing, Tyler said that it was easy to see dad at home as a completely different person from the Dr. Gray who taught him at the university.
“It was very easy to go to his class, though, and look at him as a teacher and not dad,” he said. “It was literally that much difference in the classroom. At home, he's just my goofy dad. Here, he's serious. I had no trouble switching that over and seeing him as a teacher and paying attention.”
For Gray, he had the same reservations about teaching his children, but he found that “lecture mode” turned his focus to the material and to ensuring that the whole class was engaged in the information he was presenting.
“It turned out to be a natural process, where very seldom would I look at them and think, 'That's my son,'” Gray said. “I saw them as another student in the class.”
In Tyler's opinion, his dad is the best teacher he's had. “For real, he is. I can go into his test and know, if I have paid attention throughout the lecture, I'm going to make a B. With a little study, I make A's on pretty much every test. I just absorb it. It's the way he teaches.”
Gray said that both of his sons are good students, bias aside. “What I love the most is that they truly enjoy this profession,” Gray said. “I can see it in their activity and hear it in their voices. They have bright futures ahead of them.”
Tyler, who works now in computerized tomography at St. Dominic's Hospital in Jackson, has set his eyes on medical school as the next goal. He will begin taking prerequisite classes next semester. Zack currently has a student job in UMMC's Radiology Department. After earning his master's, he hopes to become a teacher in the program, just like his dad.
Now that his sons are through the program, Gray will set aside teaching to focus more on the administrative aspects of his job as associate dean.
“I decided to step away from the face-to-face classroom, so when Zack finished today, I told them it's my last lecture,” Gray said.
“I'm glad my dad stayed,” said Zack.
“The students are going to miss a good teacher,” said Tyler.