Portrait of Casey Spell
Third-year medical student Casey Spell describes his work managing a roofing and home repair business "a break from my studies."
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People of the U: Casey Spell

Published on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

By: Gary Pettus, gpettus@umc.edu

Once Casey Spell finishes his medical degree, he’ll earn his living mending people’s health; in the meantime, he’s earning a living mending their roofs.

Enrolled as a third-year student in the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Spell is simultaneously managing H&S Roofing and Home Repair, based in his hometown of Pearl, a venture he co-owns with his high school buddy, Chris Hare.

“It has taken up a good bit of time, but it’s manageable and I enjoy it,” said Spell, 28. “And it’s a break from my studies.”

That he would consider running a business a breather does not exactly astonish Dr. Robert Brodell.

Portrait of Robert Brodell.jpg

“Casey is an amazing medical student and master juggler,” said Brodell, chair of dermatology at UMMC.

“During the 2019 -2020 school year, he performed library research and wrote a book chapter with me, “Acne and Rosacea in Pregnancy,” which had been accepted for publication in the textbook, Cutaneous Disorders of Pregnancy.

“He found time to study and maintain a straight-A average, prepare for {his medical licensing exam], manage his roofing company, and prepare for the arrival of his first child. Whew! I’m tired thinking about it.”

For Spell, steering a company is not only a way to nourish his bank account, it’s also a way to nurture his brain, especially the part medical school doesn’t often tap into. “I believe what [online investor] Tai Lopez said, that you should be constantly feeding it. “You need a six-pack for your mind,” he said, referencing abs, not beer.

Entrepreneurially speaking, this is not Spell’s first rodeo, although he has been fairly set on becoming a physician, rather than a businessman, since he was an eighth-grader at Pearl Junior High. For a classroom assignment requiring him to research careers, Spell’s online browsing led him to anesthesiology’s doorstep, he said.

“I thought, ‘hey, this sounds pretty cool.’” When he realized it combined a good living with the “pursuit of an admirable career,” he was sold on medical school. It didn’t hurt that he is good at math and science, and “always enjoyed a challenge.”

Contractor workers for H&S Roofing and Home Repair, a venture co-owned by Casey Spell and Chris Hare, get busy on a recent project in the Jackson area.
Contractor workers for H&S Roofing and Home Repair, a venture co-owned by Casey Spell and Chris Hare, get busy on a recent project in the Jackson area.

And it was a challenge. After the Pearl High School graduate finished at Millsaps College in Jackson, he applied to medical school for the 2015-2016 academic year.

“And I didn’t get in,” he said. “I thought, ‘What am I going to do?” Starting a business seemed to be called for, he said.

By this time, Spell knew the drill. About 10 years ago, a couple of his friends with Ivy League credentials returned home to Pearl to create a company that tutored kids in standardized test-taking. They even made house calls. And they called on Spell to join them.

For four years, the trio set up workshops and contracted with highs schools around Mississippi, helping students get a leg up on the ACT, the PSAT and many other T’s. This led to an offer from Spell’s alma mater: Pearl High asked him and one of his co-tutors to teach there.

If Spell really enjoys a challenge, he must have been in heaven by then. After earning his teaching license at Hinds Community College, he taught for two years, either Algebra or ACT Prep, but not always to a rapt audience.

“I loved my students, but for some, school wasn’t their thing,” he said. “It was difficult for me to find out that the majority of high school students have made up their minds that they’re either going to care about school or they’re not.

“I wanted to surround myself with people who do care and who want to better themselves every day.”

Which is a pretty good description of medical students. On Spell’s second try, he was admitted, to the Class of 2022. But his adventures in business did not stop there.

Every day, on his drive from home to school and back, he listens to audiobooks, often at double speed – Harry Potter and “Game of Thrones,” sometimes, but more often books about personal development and business. Since last year, at least, commerce has been on his mind as much as clerkships: It was 2019 when his friend Chris Hare asked him to help him set up a company.

“Between Millsaps and medical school, I had put in a lot of time learning about finance, and Chris knew I had the business knowledge,” Spell said.

“He had been in home repair for about seven years, but wanted to start his own business. While he focused on labor, he wanted someone else to handle logistics and finances. He would be kind of like the machine and I would be like the computer.”

This suited the computer fine, since he doesn’t have time to scale sketchy roofs – “I have to study too much, so it’s not possible,” he said.

“Throughout the day, I can study for an hour or so, then switch to the business for a while. And Chris can focus on actually going out and doing the job.” This switch, from thinking like a clinician to thinking like a comptroller, not only feeds his mind, it gives it peace as well.

But, at times, he must also think like an officer: On top of his lives as entrepreneur, student and family man, Spell is a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Before enrolling as a medical student, he was accepted for the military’s Health Professions Scholarship Program, which covers his medical school tuition and fees while also providing him with a monthly stipend.

He will eventually undergo his medical residency at a U.S. Army installation and, to complete his duty requirements, serve as an Army physician for another four years.

Having a source of income during medical school is no longer a major concern. “I still have debt from undergraduate school; this helps me avoid digging myself into more debt,” he said. “And, with my scholarship and business, I’ve been able to start a life and a family.”

That family – he and his wife Anna, a third-grade teacher in Pearl Public Schools – will be joined in July by Holden Andrew Spell, their first child.

“But, even if the business crashes, I’m still fine, because of the scholarship,” Spell said.

A crash seems unlikely: The business has at least doubled since last year, he said. But it’s still just a two-person enterprise: H & S, with H managing the subcontractor crews who supply the labor.

“Once I finish medical school,” Spell said, “Chris and I hope to have put systems in place so we can be more hands-off, and the business can run itself.”

Even if he has to move, say, for his residency in a couple of years, “we can expand to that location,” Spell said.

“Like McDonald’s.”

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