Patient Care, Built on Humanics

Through varied paths, alums forge successful careers in medicine

By Kerri Fleming Vautour ’07 | Fall/Winter 2024

For Carlos Placer ’93 and his brother Javier Placer ’96, it was paved with volleyball.

For Steve Steele ’82, it took a detour at Jacksonville University.

And for Jenny McDade Despotovic ’97, G’99, the road to Springfield College began at Fenway Park. 

The paths of these four alums also varied greatly, but each has built a career in medicine, using the College’s Health Sciences program and its Humanics philosophy to guide patient care.

Javier Placer ’96
Jenny McDade Despotovic ’97, G’99
Steve Steele ’82, at right, has treated elite athletes like Tiger Woods, Venus and Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic.

Despotovic always wanted to be a doctor. Her Sports Biology degree led her to earn a master’s degree in Science Education. Today, she is the director of the Hematology Center at the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, an expert in blood disorders and cancers in children. She is also the founder of the hospital’s Immune Hematology Program, the first of its kind in the country.

Steele transferred to Springfield College, and earned a dual degree in Health and Fitness and Biology. He — and many peers on the swim team — headed to the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri. Steele carried the osteopathic philosophy into his family medicine practice in La Quinta, California. 

Javier Placer was inspired to a career in medicine by his father and older brother Carlos, who played volleyball for Springfield College while studying health science. Javier’s twin brother, Manuel, also attended Springfield College and became a medical consultant in Puerto Rico. Javier Placer attended medical school at the University of Puerto Rico and completed a fellowship in pain medicine and spine and musculoskeletal care the University of Florida. He now practices at the Orlando-based Spine and Scoliosis Center. (Carlos works in the same specialty at the Regentics Health Institute in Kissimmee, Florida.)

Javier Placer says, “Springfield College formed my work ethic and philosophy that all aspects of life have to be balanced in order to excel. The practice of medicine is all about the mind, body, and spirit philosophy.”

Despotovic agrees. “It was one of the best decisions I made, to go to Springfield College. For sure.” End of article