Alumni News and Notes

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How Learning Communities (Houses) Support Medical Students

Two people working on laptop at a table.

Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s learning communities, also known as Houses, provide medical students with longitudinal support, mentoring and extracurricular activities that aid success. These four Houses — Blue, Green, Red and Yellow — offer students designated physical spaces where they can study, relax and foster professional development. The interiors of these spaces are decked out in the House color, and student ID badges are also designated by color. Students remain with their Houses throughout medical school.

Each House is assigned 10 faculty mentors, one personal and professional development coach, one advanced career advisor and one academic advisor for its students. These mentors provide a support resource, opportunities for career exploration/guidance and foster academic success during students’ medical school journey. Medical students are randomly sorted into the Houses at the start of their first year, although staff does consider where each student obtained their undergraduate degree.

“Houses promote collaboration, camaraderie, academic support among students and friendly competition,” said Dhruv Patel, second-year medical student and president of the Yellow House. “Your house provides a support network where students can lean on each other during challenging times and have a close-knit group of peers that they see on a semi-regular basis. These supportive structures contribute to the overall success and satisfaction of medical students throughout their journey in medical school.”

Each House has its own identity, crest and creed, and they vary by space and amenities. (Students can use other Houses’ amenities outside of their own.) Each House has a residing president who acts as a liaison between school administrators and their House, helps plan social events, maintains appropriate supplies and facilitates repairs of items within the Houses. Interactive events such as the annual Field Day and the course-driven Blood and Gut Cups – friendly competitions that occur during educational blocks — the medical school gala, holiday bake-offs and pumpkin-carving contests, are determined by Houses.

“Houses are important because they provide us students with some reprieve from the stress that is medical school,” said Gianna Gambino, second-year medical student and president of the Blue House. “The Houses give us a place to gather, eat and be human with one another and allow us the space to take a step back from our academic/professional selves. The events and socials are an amazing way for us to bond, connect and enjoy each other’s company outside of school.”

Houses are part of the Learning Communities Institute (LCI), a not-for-profit organization of institutions, learners, educators and administrators who promote, enhance and evaluate the use of learning communities in medical education.

MD Class of 1973

50th Reunion Remembrance by William H. Bestermann Jr., MD, dedicated to Class President David A. Mrazek, MD, who passed away May 6, 2013.

We came from across the entire United States. We were a very diverse group. We were from cities and farms. Some came from wealthy families and some from humble origins, but we were all capable people. We knew there were 76 spots in Wake Forest University School of Medicine Class of 1973 and over 5,000 applicants. Gaining a spot in that class was an accomplishment, and I respected the credentials of my classmates so much that I worried I might not be able to keep up.

Thirty-one of the 76 attended our 50th reunion in May — some from as far away as California. That’s a half-century of experience. The reunion reminded me that our time together at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine was one of the greatest gifts and experiences in my life. We had dinner together at the reunion in Winston-Salem, N.C. After dinner, each of us got up in front of the class and spoke briefly about what we did and how our classmates had mattered in that journey. During those comments, a pattern arose, and I recognized that this experience was unique in my life. We were all accomplished individuals and we respected each other. More than that, we cared about each other. We had a collaborative and supportive relationship when we were in school.

A laptop showcasing a virtual meeting.
MD Class of 1978 participating in a pre-reunion virtual gathering for their 45th Reunion.

That was not like many of my experiences before or since. I have had people undermine me and attribute to me motives and intentions that I never had. That never happened with my medical school classmates. I don’t even remember a serious argument. We created a wonderful experience together. The leader of our happy band, class president David Mrazek, MD, became the head of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic. Sadly, he died some years ago, and I would like to dedicate this piece to him. He was chairman of the board of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry tribute to him is worth your time to read.

David’s favorite artists were Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan — like the rest of us, he was a son of the ’60s. These were tense times. Student unrest was widespread. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were murdered the year before we entered medical school. On May 4 of our freshman year, the Kent State massacre occurred. David organized a group to go see Sen. Jesse Helms to express our concern. Helms’s large office was almost filled with students from our class. Even then, we were genuinely determined to make the world a better place. David was an effective leader then and he had plenty of leadership support.

Most of us had been in very competitive premed environments. Sometimes even cutthroat settings. Our medical school experience was very demanding. It was a crucible that made us who we are. David led us to a conscious commitment to support each other. We wanted to cooperate and collaborate rather than compete for class rank. We would begin to make the world better by making ourselves better. And that is what we did. We even went to the extent of making it clear to the administration that we did not want to be ranked and compete. Although we ultimately lost that battle, that is the way that we conducted ourselves. At our reunion, there was story after story of how we helped each other. Some of us were language majors. Classmates helped them succeed in biochemistry and physiology. We used one classmate’s strength to improve another’s weakness. We helped each other deal with other challenges in life. One classmate even went over to another classmate’s home at 3 o’clock in the morning to put a dislocated shoulder back in place. We were as serious about our preparation as anyone could be. Our collective accomplishments over the last 50 years document that, but our commitment to collegiality and collaboration was real and persists in our group to this day. We understood team-based medicine before it was cool!

The human connection that we experienced together may have taught us better ways to socialize. It may have helped us deal with other medical professionals in a more constructive manner. Our continued enthusiasm for working with other people may even help us to stay healthier longer. Our broader society could learn some lessons from our class. Leaders and professional people must respect each other and work together for the common good. Our class continues to prove it can be done, and the world is a better place for it. That perspective contributed to our love of lifelong learning to help our friends and neighbors live longer healthier lives. That is why I write several times a week and work with other medical stakeholders to achieve better health at lower cost. Medicine is a team sport! We can slow aging and delay chronic disease now!

As I look at David’s picture, my main regret is that I did not have more time to enjoy him and the other members of my class. My eyes are clouding up with tears and I cannot help myself. He was a good friend. David wrote the following after he learned of his terminal diagnosis 10 years ago:

“I have lost much of my old life, but thankfully not my old friends .. Time has taken on new meanings for me. I do not have enough time left and yet some days go on and on. It is impossible not to become increasingly philosophical. It is undeniable that we all will die and few of us will have much control of the process. However, it is also true that we will all have more control on how we choose to live, and hopefully we will make increasingly good decisions.”

Even at the end he was teaching us.

Honored Tradition: Match Day 2023

A student holding a sign that reads "I Matched!".

Physicians the world over know it as one of the most momentous days in their journey to becoming a physician: Match Day, an honored tradition at medical schools across the country.

A graphic showcasing the number of matches by location for medical students.
Two people holding a baby and smiling at another person taking a photo.

Each year, on the third Friday in March, fourth-year medical students wait in anticipation for the clock to strike noon. They excitedly open envelopes with their names on them to learn where they matched for the next three to seven years of residency training.

A person standing at a table holding a card.

At Wake Forest University School of Medicine, 137 students who took part matched with a residency. Thirty-seven students will stay in North Carolina for their residencies, and 17 of those are at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. Results from Match Day were emailed to MD alumni, who were encouraged to connect with any new graduates who matched near their locations.

A group of people running towards cards on a table.

Ebony Boulware, MD, MPH, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and chief science officer and vice chief academic officer of Advocate Health, said she cheered alongside the students in her first Match Day as dean.

Two people hugging in a crowd.

“This is an exciting time and a new chapter for our medical students,” Boulware said. “Match Day is not only a special tradition for medical students but a transformational time in their lives as they embark on their final steps to becoming a medical professional. I can remember the mix of excitement and anticipation I felt during my Match Day.”

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Graduate School

Passion for Clinical Research Lives on in Murphy Scholarship

The legacy of a woman who believed in advancing medicine through clinical research and in expanding opportunities for the underrepresented is living on at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Winston-Salem’s Mary Hofmann Murphy knew when she agreed to join a cancer research trial that her participation would benefit researchers and future patients. The trial was conducted at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist with investigators from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Indiana University.

Before her death in 2021, she inspired the nonprofit Greater Gift to endow the Mary Hofmann Murphy Scholarship for Clinical Research Leadership with a gift of $50,000. The scholarship is presented to a student in the Master’s in Clinical Research Management Program at the School of Medicine.

“Mary Hofmann Murphy’s journey at Wake Forest Baptist is a story of commitment and a desire to help others, including those she may never know, who will benefit from her role in clinical research,” said Jennifer Byrne, founder and board chair of Greater Gift, a nonprofit founded in 2010 with the goal of increasing awareness of clinical research, especially among underrepresented communities.

“Mary’s commitment to overcoming hardship and her wish to impact social justice in our world live in the spirit of this scholarship.”

The first scholarship recipient was Darius Ford, MS ’22, one of the first students to enroll in the program that aims to increase the number of professionals entering into or looking to grow within the clinical research industry. Ford now works as senior project manager with Dassault Systems in Raleigh, N.C.

Murphy will never know the many students who will receive her scholarship in the future, but she knew the impact the scholarship would have. When she learned that it was being created in her honor, she said, “The establishment of this scholarship is an answer to my prayer to be able to make a difference in the world.”

Brittany Liebenow Honored with Gordon A. Melson Outstanding Doctoral Student Award

Brittany Liebenow, a student in the combined MD/PhD program at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, was awarded the Gordon A. Melson Outstanding Doctoral Student Award in recognition of her PhD dissertation in the neuroscience graduate program. The award honored Liebenow’s research productivity and quality. Recipients of this annual award also are honored for the originality, importance and impact of their research within their field. The doctoral student’s academic record, activity in the discipline and/or university and departmental standing are also considered.

Three Graduate Students Named National Science Foundation Fellows

Thomas Jeong, PhD, student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering; Andrea Robinson, PhD, student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Anna “Izzy” Neel, PhD, student in the Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology program, were all named National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recipients.

Fellowships provide students with a three-year annual stipend and cost-of- education allowance for tuition and fees, as well as access to opportunities for professional development available to NSF-supported graduate students.

The GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. The GRFP is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in various STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

The NSF is an independent agency of the United States government that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health.

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Great 100 Honors 11 Nurses

A group of 11 headshots showcasing various people smiling at the camera.
Top row, from left: Sandra Bowman; Makia Cade; Heath Earley; Tawanna Hairston; Carolyn Huffman; Jennifer Ingle. Bottom row, from left: Anika Lyerly; Rebecca Tamayo; James (Mack) Tolbert; Carolyn Williamson; Laneita Williamson.

Eleven Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist nurses have been selected as North Carolina Great 100 Nurses of 2023. The Great 100, Inc. is a grassroots peer-recognition organization honoring the nursing profession in North Carolina. Each year, it recognizes 100 N.C. nurses who demonstrate excellence in practice and commitment to their profession. The Great 100 also includes a scholarship program to support nursing education.

“I am so proud of our 11 nurses from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist who are among those honored by the Great 100,” said Deb Harding, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, vice president and regional chief nurse executive, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “As part of our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we identified and nominated diverse candidates in all practice areas, so these 11 nurses are a reflection of the incredible dedication to care all of our 3,800 nurses show to our patients, their loved ones and each other every day.”

Nurses are nominated for their hospital and community involvement. Nominations are scored based on how the nominee promotes and advances the profession of nursing in their practice setting and/or community; demonstrates integrity, honesty and accountability; displays commitment to patients, families and colleagues; demonstrates caring and assists others to grow and develop; radiates energy and enthusiasm; and contributes to overall outcomes in their practice setting.

Nurses recognized:

  • Sandra Bowman, RN
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Makia Cade, DNP, RN, OCN
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Heath Earley, MHA, BSN, RN, NE-BC
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Brenner Children’s Hospital
  • Tawanna Hairston, DNP, NP-C, AAHIVS
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Carolyn Huffman, WHNP, PhD
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Jennifer Ingle, DNP, RN-BC, NEA-BC
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Anika Lyerly, DNP, RN, NE-BC, NPD-BC
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Rebecca Tamayo, BSN, RN
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist High Point Medical Center
  • James (Mack) Tolbert, MSN, RN, CEN, NRP
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Carolyn Williamson, BSN
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Laneita Williamson, RN, BSN
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Class of ’73 Marks 50th Reunion

A group of people smiling at the camera.
The RN Class of 1973 celebrated their 50th reunion in May with a gathering in Winston-Salem, N.C. First row: Phyllis Weddle Love; Lorraine Owenby Wheeler; Tamra Elaine Swaringen; Janet Sutton Miller; Bobbie Corbett McMillan; Carol Taylor Vannoy; Wanda Ledford Eaker. Second row: Darlene Whitaker Wilkins; Darleen Shircliffe Mastin; Lynn Rose Haynes; Jayne Roberts Byrd; Gale Thibodeau Whitworth. Third row: Doris Jean Dew; Miriam Eddins Fahrer; Anita Jane Davis; Debbie Culberson Crouch; Sandy Pendleton Savage; Barbara Payne Jordan; Ann Lewis Rooker; Sharon Johnston Scruggs

Edna L. Heinzerling Award Recipients for 2023

The Edna L. Heinzerling Award for Nursing Excellence is dedicated to fostering and rewarding professional nursing and is open to registered nurses across Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. The North Carolina Baptist Hospital School of Nursing Alumni established this annual award in memory of Edna L. Heinzerling, RN, first director of nursing of North Carolina Baptist Hospital. Contributions are made by alumni, and the hospital provides additional funding to support this program. The award is given once a year. Each recipient will receive up to $2,000 for reimbursement toward current continuing education, including but not limited to current schooling, books, conferences, equipment and more between May 1, 2023, and April 30, 2024.

2023 Recipients:

  • Elizabeth Eidson, heart station
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • LaDonna S. Martin, CRNA ’95
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
  • Maddy Griner (father, Richard L. Griner III, CRNA ’95), trauma ICU
    Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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