May 31, 2019

More than a year ago, a mentoring program was launched to provide professional and personal support for the Underrepresented Minority (URM) resident and fellow physicians training here at Wake Forest Baptist Health. This pilot program was designed to bring together African American, Hispanic, and Native American residents and fellows with faculty mentors of their same race or ethnicity and well as non-minority faculty. The pilot was so successful, that it was expanded from four departments to all 69+ departments within the medical center, according to Artina Dawkins, PhD, MPA, C-TAGME, Residency Coordinator in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Program Manager for the URM Mentor Program for House Staff.

This spring, the program was renamed the Kennedy Hopkins Scholars in honor of two African American physicians who are pioneers here in the field of medicine: Dr. Charles Kennedy and Dr. Lawrence Hopkins.

During a special one-year anniversary and recognition event in March, leaders, physicians and former patients of Drs. Kennedy and Hopkins paid tribute through their heartfelt testimonials, expressing their appreciation and respect for the indelible marks that these doctors made on them, their families and their careers. 

Charlie Kennedy, MD, graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. He was the first African American resident at Wake Forest School of Medicine. For 20 of his 40 years practicing medicine, he was the only African American pediatrician in Winston-Salem. He was also the first African American Chief of Pediatrics at Forsyth Medical Center. 

Dr. Kennedy mentored Larry Hopkins, MD, who graduated from Wake Forest University and WFU School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. Dr. Hopkins is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and continues to practice in Ob-Gyn here at Wake Forest Baptist Health as an Assistant Professor. 

Their wives are leaders connected to Wake Forest University as well. Willie Kennedy, RN, MS, JD, taught nursing at Winston-Salem State University. Later she received a master’s degree in sociology and a law degree from WFU and practiced law. Beth Hopkins was one of the first four African American women to attend WFU. After receiving her law degree from the College of William & Mary, she returned to Winston-Salem to teach law at WFU, where she is an adjunct professor.

Two older African American couples stand together and pose for a photo Pictured left to right are Willie and Charlie Kennedy and Larry and Beth Hopkins

Here are two of the tributes to Drs. Kennedy and Hopkins: 

Brenda Latham-Sadler, MD, is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the School of Medicine who completed her residency in Family and Community Medicine here at Wake Forest Baptist Health, where she is a physician and associate dean: “We owe so much to both Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Hopkins. They helped to show a lot of us how to manage life in Winston-Salem as a healthcare professional. They have given their time, opened their homes and shared their lessons learned with us as students, residents in training and practicing physicians. I have been blessed over the last 35 years to have them as mentors and colleagues.  I am so pleased that we are able to honor them with the naming of the Kennedy Hopkins Scholars Program.”

Elijah Hamilton Beaty, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Electrophysiology Section on Cardiovascular Medicine, and president of the Twin City Medical Society: “Dr. Kennedy was the first and only pediatrician I knew. When I asked any of my friends with whom I grew up who their pediatrician was, the unanimous response was ‘Dr. Kennedy.’ To this day I remember his laid-back demeanor, which put me at ease with every visit, even if it included immunization shots. He has made a tremendous impact on the youth of our community as well as myself. He is someone who looks like me and serves as an example of what I can become with the right amount of drive, focus, and dedication. I am truly honored to walk down the path of medicine in Winston-Salem that was paved by him.”  

Two African-American men with grey hair stand together and smile

The Underrepresented Minority Mentor Program for House Staff was renamed the Kennedy Hopkins Scholars in honor of Dr. Charlie Kennedy (left) and Dr. Larry Hopkins (right)