Outstanding Islander Graduate David Chessher ’22, Army Veteran, Earns Clinical Laboratory Science Degree

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Caffeine, water, and willpower – those were the keys to success according to 2022 Outstanding Islander Graduate, David Chessher, III. During his undergraduate program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Chessher said he needed all three to help him balance his education, work full-time at night, and maintain his family responsibilities as a soon-to-be father of four.

Chessher will earn his Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science on Saturday, Aug. 6, at the American Bank Center. It’s the university's largest-ever summer ceremony. The designation of Outstanding Islander Graduate is sponsored by the TAMU-CC Office of the Provost.

A Corpus Christi native, Chessher graduated from W.B. Ray High School in 2012 and enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Chessher completed the Army’s Medical Laboratory Specialist program and passed his national certification to become a medical laboratory technician. As a certified medical laboratory technician, he collected samples and performed tests that aided in diagnosing and treating soldiers.

“I believe that patients deserve high-quality care, and the purpose of the laboratory professionals is to provide high-quality patient test results to better direct patient care,” Chessher said. “Laboratory medicine is a critical part of the health care team, and I am one of the last advocates for patient safety before a result gets released to the health care team.”

During his seven years in the Army, Chessher completed his associate degree in Health Sciences Laboratory Technology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

While preparing to transition out of the military, he and his wife, Evelyn, primarily wanted to return to the Corpus Christi area to be closer to family. But he also discovered the perfect place where he could take his next step academically which would allow him to operate at a higher level of responsibility in the lab.

“We wanted our children to spend time with their grandparents and cousins since they did not have that chance while I was in the Army,” Chessher said. “Also, TAMU-CC had a clinical laboratory science program, so it seemed serendipitous.”

He started at TAMU-CC in fall 2019, but began his clinical laboratory science training in fall  2021, and immediately impressed his faculty.

OIG David Chessher in the lab

“He’s the only student that has made all A’s in my classes in the time I’ve been here – 12 years,” said Dr. Felix Omoruyi, Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Clinical Laboratory Science program. “Certainly, I take his military training as part of it. He’s mature; he knows what he’s doing. He comes in, already set for the day. He pays attention; he’s not distracted.”

Chessher’s discipline was tested when, not long after his enrolled as an undergraduate student at TAMU-CC, he found himself in need of a full-time job. In 2020, Chessher began working nights for Corpus Christi Medical Center hospitals in support of his family.

Chessher admits that balancing school, work, and family life has been grueling, but he learned to optimize his schedule. Chessher took classes Monday through Thursday and then worked 12-hour overnight shifts Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Monday through Friday, he inverted his schedule and got up around 3 a.m. to study before his young children David, Selene, and Aurion woke up. The family will welcome another child, Aurelia, just a few weeks after graduation.

“My children are my motivation to be a better person, and my wife has supported my endeavors without question,” he said.

It’s a lot of responsibility, but that’s where the coffee and willpower came in.

“David is the whole package,” said Dr. Jean Sparks, Clinical Laboratory Science Program Director. “He’s a family man, a great student, and he works full time. He has to be able to balance that, and I know it must get unbalanced at times. But he doesn’t complain, he just does what needs to be done.”

The hard work has paid off. Chessher expects to graduate with a 3.9752 GPA at the Island University. And though his work hours are long, working in hospital laboratories helped reinforce the concepts Chessher learned in class.

“There have been countless times over the past year and a half that I have been able to apply something I have learned during undergrad to my work in the clinical laboratory,” he said.

As Chessher concludes his undergraduate study, and with the encouragement of his professors, he plans to begin a Master of Science in Biology program at the Island University with the ultimate goal of attending medical school and becoming a pathologist.