Did Somebody Call a Doctor? 2004 Stanford Team Yields 3 MD’s

This evening I was watching a rebroadcast of the 2022 PAC-12 Women’s Gymnastics Championship, and when I saw a shot of Stanford head coach Tabitha Yim, it inspired me to write this article that I have been meaning to do for a couple of years now about the extraordinary 2004 Stanford University women’s gymnastics team, and specifically three of the extraordinary athletes on that team. It’s based on a fact that I discovered while doing a “where are they now?” review of some of my old gymnastics photographs from various college meets I’ve attended over the years. The specific meet in question related to this post took place twenty years ago.
March 4, 2004 was a frigid evening in College Park, Maryland, when I had the privilege to see the powerhouse Stanford Cardinal compete in person against the Maryland Terrapins. I sat in one of the front rows of the bleachers, just a few yards away from the competition floor. The Cardinal were then ranked in the top five nationally, and it was no surprise they beat the Terps handily that night, just as it was no surprise when they went on to finish third in the NCAA National Championships a few weeks later.
Why was the 2004 Cardinal team so extraordinary? Going into the season ranked number six in the polls, this squad proceeded to justify that ranking by having an outstanding season, along the way setting numerous program records. They eventually won the PAC-10 championship for only the third time in program history, edging out mighty UCLA. Then at the NCAA national championship Stanford then went on reach the final six, tying for third with Alabama, behind second-place Georgia and the champion Bruins. The 2004 season remains to this day one of the most successful in Stanford women’s gymnastics program history.
Kendall Beck on balance beam vs. Maryland, March 6, 2004
Kendall Beck (seen here on balance beam vs. Maryland, Mar. 6, 2004)is now Dr. Kendall Beck, gastroenterologist at University of California San Francisco Medical Center [my photo ©Jim Bierbaum/fotosportif.com]
The biggest factor that made that kind of excellence possible was a formidable roster jam-packed with talent and extensive experience at the elite level. Talent such as Natalie Foley, Caroline Fluhrer, Jessica Louie, Lindsay Wing, and Glyn Sweets, just to name a few, would give any opponent a run for their money.  But that’s not all. Amazing as those previously mentioned athletes were, that’s not who I want to write about today.  There were three other members of that team who were major factors in the team’s success, but aside from that, these particular three went on to the same remarkable careers after college. Careers not in sports. And not just one, or two, but three of them.

Where Are They Now?

What do Kendall Beck, Lise Léveillé and Stacy Sprando have in common? Besides being former world-class gymnasts, I mean. Well, believe it or not, after competing on that Stanford team that won the PAC-10 championship and tied for third in the NCAA championship, all three went on to medical school and then became successful physicians on staff at university-affiliated teaching hospitals. The three of them, all on the same team. That seems like a really amazing thing to me, something worthy of note. Amazing or not, it’s probably time that I introduce them.

Kendall Beck in 2004 was a senior, a former elite, National Champion on Balance Beam in 1997 and was a member of the US Junior National Team in 1996-97 and Senior National Team 1997-2000, competing for Team USA at the 1997 World Championships, and also competed at the 2000 US Olympic Trials, but had to withdraw due to injury. Today she is Kendall Beck, MD, gastroenterologist on staff at University of California San Francisco Medical Center, and assistant professor with the UCSF Dept. of Medicine.

Stanford's Stacy Sprando on balance beam vs. Maryland, March 6, 2004
Stanford’s Stacy Sprando (seen here on beam vs. UMD, Mar. 6, 2004) is now Dr. Stacy Valenzuela, specializing in pediatric emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University Hospital. [my photo ©Jim Bierbaum/fotosportif.com]

Lise Léveillé was also a senior on the 2004 Stanford squad, and a former member of the Canadian National Team, representing her home country in the 2000 Olympic Games. Today she is Lisa Léveillé, MD, staff orthopædic pediatric surgeon at BC (British Columbia) Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, as well as Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Undergraduate Medical Education at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, as much a star in the field of medicine as she was a star in international gymnastics.
Stacy Sprando was a freshman on the 2004 Cardinal team, was Level 10 Uneven Bars National Champion. Today she is Stacy Valenzuela, MD, specializing in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, affiliated with the Oregon Health & Science University Hospital and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, both in Portland, Oregon.
The big money college sports of men’s football and basketball at times seem to make a mockery of the term “scholar-athlete” (or “student-athlete” which is less lofty but still puts “student” first). It has long been the case that many players in those sports just breeze through college without every having to take it very seriously, smug knowing that after graduating (or even if not) they quite likely will earn millions of dollars playing a kids’ game, and become celebrities. But female athletes as a group and men who play one of the many other less prominent intercollegiate sports accept that they will likely never earn a dime playing their sport, no matter how great they are, so they know the true value of a full ride sports scholarship to a top university. They make the very most of that opportunity to prepare themselves for a career in something completely unrelated to the sport that paid their way through college. Careers like, oh, let’s say, medicine.

2004 was the only year all three of these athletes were on the same team, since Beck and Léveillé were seniors and Sprando was a freshman. I’m lucky to have seen them in that one season they were together, just as I am lucky to have seen so many other incredibly talented scholar-athletes over the years. Just add this to the long, long list of reasons I love college gymnastics.

As far as I’ve been able to find, I am the first one to have noticed this unique and remarkable aspect of the 2004 Stanford team. I could be wrong that I’m the first, and I could also be wrong that it’s such an amazing thing. But it amazes me. I hope it’s interesting to you, too. And if this is news to you, remember where you heard it first.

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