Class of 1981
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of our first class of students graduating from the Doctor of Medicine program. Throughout the year we will be featuring members of the inaugural class.
As young boys, Kent Rollins and Lawrence Hill grew up in different areas of South Carolina, but fate led them to become classmates as part of the inaugural class for the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia. Following graduation and residency, both also pursued specialty careers in urology.
Rollins, originally from Lake City, spent many nights during his undergraduate years at the College of Charleston working as an orderly at what is now Roper St. Francis Hospital. That time spent in the hospital doing minor urological procedures served to pique his interest in a medical career. It also helped that his cousin, longtime UofSC Board of Trustees member and vascular surgeon, Eddie Floyd, M.D., provided Rollins with opportunities to observe surgeries in the operating room.
“As a kid, I suffered from osteomyelitis,” Rollins recalls. “I broke a variety of limbs at least once throughout an active childhood, so I was pretty familiar with medicine growing up.”
Similarly, Hill, who grew up in Greenville, also worked as an orderly at the Greenville Hospital System, now Prisma Health Upstate. He too always had an interest in medicine and was influenced by an uncle who was a professor of surgery at the Medical College of Virginia.
“I spent my summers mowing grass in the morning and working in the hospital at night,” Hill says. “I recall my parents giving me a book by Dr. William A. Nolen, a well-known surgeon, called “The Making of a Surgeon,” and it really intrigued me.”
Rollins and Hill both determined that the university’s fledgling medical program was the right fit for them.
“We were always the most senior medical students and always the first, so the experience was very good,” says Rollins. “Our professors were eager to teach. I had better training than my coresidents, because we had more hands-on experience than interns from other programs.”
“I liked the smaller class size,” Hill remembers. “As part of the first class, we got to know each other well, and the faculty knew us well. That’s harder to accomplish in medical school today with larger class sizes.”
After earning his medical degree, Rollins completed two years of residency in general surgery and three years in urology at the Medical College of Virginia, then remained in Richmond, Virginia to practice, focusing on kidney stone and prostate disease. Hill completed residencies at the University of Florida College of Medicine and George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, where he was chief resident. He also completed a fellowship in male reproductive medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, before returning to Greenville to practice.
Both physicians went on to stellar careers in the field of urology, but of even greater significance for the many patients they have helped through the years, is their dedication to providing medical care to those in underserved nations.
Rollins, along with his wife, plastic surgeon Nadia Blanchet, both donate their time to the World Pediatric Project, providing care for young patients in Central and South America and small islands in the Caribbean.
“It is a blessing that everyone should take advantage of,” says Rollins. “It is worthwhile to donate your time.”
Hill has also done a great deal of volunteer work, donating his time to a free urology clinic in Greenville. He volunteered for a medical and surgical mission in Cange, Haiti, through Partners in Health, performing 49 surgeries over five days. He also spent a year in the Dutch West Indies providing medical care and serving as an associate professor of clinical medicine at Saba University School of Medicine.
“People in Haiti and the Dutch West Indies are waiting as long as six months to see a doctor,” Hill says. “It changes your perspective and that really affected me. It was important to me to give back to South Carolina and to others as best I could.”
Rollins continues to provide care to patients in active practice and says he cannot imagine having done any other career.
“My advice for medical students today is to think about where you may be 20-30 years from now, when thinking about a specialty. Get as much experience in as many things as you can when you’re an intern,” he says.
Hill, who retired from active practice in 2018, is a clinical professor emeritus at the UofSC School of Medicine Greenville, sharing his knowledge of clinical skills with students. He also continues to work with the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners.
“There are tremendous opportunities in medicine,” he adds, “with so much need for physicians and health care. You always have an opportunity to help people and that is extremely rewarding.”