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)

In 2018, 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.

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 2019, 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. 

Two older African American couples stand together and pose for a photo

Dr. Kennedy mentored Larry Hopkins, MD, who graduated from Wake Forest University and WFU School of Medicine and then completed his residency at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. Dr. Hopkins was board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and practiced in Ob-Gyn here at Wake Forest Baptist Health as an Assistant Professor. He passed away in 2020.

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.