Resident Reflections

PGY 4’s

Caleb Lee
My name is Caleb and I am from West Virginia. I am a huge college football fan, especially SEC football (roll tide). In my spare time, I enjoy saltwater fishing, hunting and spending time outdoors. I chose Wake Forest because the people were not only friendly and down to earth but also displayed a sincere interest in resident education. I have grown to love living in Winston Salem and hope to stay in North Carolina after I am through with my training. My favorite things to do in the region include exploring local breweries, visiting the nearby NC beaches and fishing with my dad and brother. After residency, I plan to complete a vascular neurology fellowship and pursue a neurohospitalist career.

Fortino Velasco
I'm Fortino Velasco, originally from San Antonio, Texas. I pursued my undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame and completed my medical education at UTSW. My hobbies include college football, retro video game collecting, board games and spending time with my family. I chose to come to Wake Forest for neurology because of the exceptional training it offers and the welcoming community of individuals involved. In Winston-Salem, I enjoy activities such as exploring breweries, attending local concerts and visiting the nearby science center with my family. Next year I will be starting a two-year fellowship specializing in epilepsy, with the ultimate goal of practicing epilepsy at an academic center.

PGY 3’s

Suzan “Suzie” Farris
I came to medicine as a non-traditional student after doing half of a PhD in psychology and working in clinical research for 6 years after that. I have an old house and two big dogs, and I spend a lot of my spare time going to see live music. Why I chose Wake Forest Neurology for residency As a long-time employee of Wake Forest before I was a medical student here, I already knew and loved our neurology faculty and residents. Residency is hard no matter where you go or what you do, so it's important to choose a supportive environment where you can count on the people you work with. Best thing about being a resident here? My co-residents! We all genuinely care for each other and we have a great time together.

What’s great about living in W-S? This is a city where it's not too large but there's plenty to do! There's easy access both to larger cities and to rural areas, to the mountains and the beach and four seasons every year. But honestly my favorite thing is that there's barely any traffic. Favorite thing to do in W-S, the region Wise Man Brewing is my favorite place in Winston Salem - a dog-friendly brewery with a constantly rotating selection of beers, live musicians and food trucks, it's a reliably great experience that never gets boring. In the region, I like to hike and rock climb at Pilot Mountain. When the weather is bad, there's a great bouldering gym called First Hand Climbing. Career goals and research interests I want to maintain a mix of inpatient, outpatient and research, so I plan to stay in academia, but my ultimate destination is still to be determined!

Abena Kwegyir-Aggrey
My family is originally from Ghana but I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. I went to Lincoln University of Pennsylvania for college and attended Penn State College of Medicine afterward. My fiance and I are couples-matched and hope to stay in North Carolina long-term. I love spending my spare time outside, reading and exploring different bakeries. I chose Wake Forest Neurology for my residency for a few reasons. I was really drawn to the diverse patient population and exposure to so many different conditions, early exposure to different subspecialties through our outpatient blocks and electives, and lastly, my interactions with different individuals on interview day really showcased the culture here.

The best thing about being a resident here is truly the people I get to work with like my amazing co-residents, faculty, nurses, therapists (PT, OT, SLP), diagnostic neurology technicians, custodial staff and so on. Everyone is so kind and works together incredibly well. One of the great things about living in W-S is the lack of traffic! There are different activities and ways to explore various hobbies, no matter what your interests are. My goal is to be a neuroimmunologist. I'm still exploring different areas of research but I'm interested in health disparities and medical education.

Sneha Lingam
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and have hopped across the country in the past decade to Boston, Nashville, and now Winston-Salem. I'm a 1st-gen Asian Indian American, which is a huge part of my identity. Outside of work, I like to dance, cook, try out local restaurants of various cuisines, hike or walk through nearby parks, and visit my family who also recently moved to NC. I love how much green there is in and around Winston-Salem. It's easy to find a place to enjoy the feels and fresh air of nature. And on days I don't have much time to get outside, I take a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful views from our parking garage as I head in or out of work. This is a smaller city than I'm used to, but I’ve realized there is quite a lot to explore in terms of parks, restaurants, neighborhoods and more.

When I interviewed with the program, I quickly felt a sense of comfort with program leadership and residents, and that was my top priority in a residency program: a community that would be supportive and nurturing during these tough years. This first impression has proved to be true; both the medicine and neurology residency programs here are so supportive. I'm literally always hugging my coresidents. I'm thinking about stroke and palliative as potential subspecialties and have research interests in data science and global health.

PGY 2’s

Brendan Dukes
I'm Brendan Dukes, one of the new HO-2's. I'm originally from a small town in Northeast Georgia, went to Georgia Tech for undergrad, and Mercer for medical school. I chose Wake Forest because of the incredible people that I met throughout my interview experience and felt like Winston-Salem was the perfect environment for me to both work and live. My favorite aspect of Winston-Salem is its proximity to amazing hiking trails and parks (Hanging Rock, Pilot Mountain, Salem Lake, etc.), and there is no shortage of outdoor activities and new places to explore. I also enjoy spending time with my 2 dogs Wyatt and Bruce, as well as rooting for Atlanta sports teams. I am personally interested in Behavioral/Cognitive Neurology, but am excited to continue exploring the variety of subspecialties available while at Wake!

Staci Hunter
I am Staci Hunter, a second-year adult neurology resident. I am originally from Tennessee which is where I also completed medical school at Lincoln Memorial University. Prior to medical school, I went to Boston University for undergrad, then worked in a lab and ER after graduation. Simultaneously, I completed my masters in pharmacology and toxicology from Michigan State and then completed an MBA during my third and fourth year of medical school at Texas A&M. In my free time, you may find me painting, singing, or writing and illustrating children's books.

Why I chose Wake Forest Neurology for residency when choosing a residency, I wanted a place that gave me autonomy but where I was able to ask questions when I didn't know something. I wanted a place that encouraged learning and curiosity as well as a place that I could feel at home which Wake Forest has provided. Best thing about being a resident here? There are plenty of opportunities to grow as a resident and as a physician. Even as a second-year resident, we run the stroke and general service in the hospital. During electives, we have many choices to explore and make future connections for possible fellowship opportunities.

What’s great about living in W-S? I enjoy living in Winston-Salem because there is something for everyone. There is a vibrant arts scene, multiple festivals, historic regions, parks, minor league baseball and minimal traffic. Favorite thing to do in W-S, the region I am still exploring the area, but I do enjoy occasionally going out to the ball field and watching the minor league baseball team, Dash, play. Career goals and research interests I am still trying to figure out what areas of neurology that I am most interested in, but I have been most drawn to neuro-interventional radiology and would like to begin research in this area.

Peter Leistikow
I grew up in Atlanta, GA and attended Emory University as an undergraduate. Although working in EMS brought me to medicine, I became interested in neurology as a stroke research coordinator prior to medical school. I attended medical school at Hofstra/Northwell in New York. I currently live in West Salem with my wife Shaina. Why I chose Wake Forest Neurology for residency: I loved my experience meeting all the faculty and residents at my interview at Wake Forest! I was really excited about how they seemed invested in my personal goals beyond ensuring residents matched into prestigious fellowship positions. It also doesn't hurt that I was ready to be closer to family after four long years in the Northeast, and I am now a short drive away from my parents in the Raleigh area and my sister in Kernersville! Best thing about being a resident here: We love to spend time together! Even as interns, we loved to get together almost every month. Now, we spend more time than ever together in our workroom with the best view of downtown short of the rooftop playground.

What’s great about living in W-S? Winston-Salem has a low cost of living and is very easy to get around, even on a busy Dash game night. Favorite thing to do in W-S, the region: I have a few favorite spots around town including Underdog Records, the huge local library, the weekly farmer's market and all the breweries around town. Career goals and research interest: I hope to work primarily in outpatient neurology but I continue to have an interest in medical education.

Meaghan Puckett
I'm a native North Carolinian who enjoys painting, dancing to live bass music, and stomping around the blue ridge mountains. I studied studio art at UNC Chapel Hill and went here, Wake Forest, for medical school. Why I chose Wake Forest Neurology for residency I knew I loved the culture here and wanted to stay after medical school. Our residents and attendings are great to work with, and we have just about every fellowship option represented. Best thing about being a resident here We have access to a wide variety of neurology subspecialist mentors, and our patient population is awesome - plenty of rare diseases to see. Winston-Salem is the home of the NC School of the Arts, so the art scene here is extremely rich for a relatively small city.

There are a ton of great galleries, plays and events -- the new Art Crush event that happens monthly is particularly fun. Old Salem, Bethabara, Quarry Park, Salem Lake and the Reynolda Village are just a few of the gorgeous nature spots to check out. Favorite thing to do in W-S, the region I love going to Monstercade, a weird dive bar on the south side of town that has great drag shows and cool events like rat adoptions and vintage clothing sales. Career goals and research interests I'm interested in neurocritical care and research about neuroprognostication for comatose/post-arrest patients.

Brady Quon
Greetings! I’m originally from Southern California, went to medical school in Long Island NY, and now I have the pleasure of being here in Winston-Salem. In terms of hobbies, if it can be done indoors, I probably enjoy this activity. For example, I love watching/playing basketball, dissociating with Dungeons & Dragons, stress-cutting my own hair, tearing my ACL on the dance floor and worrying about staph infections from amateur woodworking. Catch me outside my apartment after setting off the fire alarm with my food experiments! Despite being vehemently sick and half asleep for the resident social and interview, I still left with an incredible lasting impression of how supportive, educational and resident-driven the program strived to be.

The residents seemed to always have each other’s backs and expressed how available the attendings/program were for support. As above, the support is *chef’s kiss*. Since completing intern year and beginning the infancy of Neurology residency, the guidance and availability of the fellow residents and program faculty have made all the difference in fostering an environment conducive for learning and improvement as a clinician. As a novice to the South… Bojangles slaps! Also, there are a ton of cute coffee shops that a caffeine addict such as myself thoroughly enjoy. Quite uncertain at this time, but probably something outpatient predominant. Currently I am considering Movement, Neuro-immunology, Cognitive, or Headache.

Justin Thorson
I grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota. From Minnesota I traveled to Grenada for medical school. I enjoy hiking, mountain biking, watching/playing hockey and exploring breweries. Why I chose Wake Forest Neurology for residency; The people of course. We are all one big family. Best thing about being a resident here? Being a large Academic center, the variety of cases that come to the hospital/clinic you only read about. What also interests me is the access to research including Nationwide groundbreaking clinical trials.

What’s great about living in W-S? The accessibility of being a Large city without any of the traffic. The location you can't beat either, Weekend trip to the beach, Asheville, Boone to name a few. Favorite thing to do in W-S, the region; the parks in the area, Tanglewood, Salem Lake and Quarry park are some of my favorites. Career goals and research interests; Vascular/Neurocritical care; research interests include acute stroke treatment, CAA, improving Stroke/Vascular prevention in low SES areas.

PGY 1’s

Hasan Alhelo
Born in Wilmington, NC, I spent almost half my life in Kuwait before coming back for college in Boston. I completed my bachelors in neuroscience and masters in epidemiology at BU, and completed medical school at LECOM. I’m happily married to the love of my life. In my time off, I enjoy running, reading and doing puzzles with my wife. Why I chose Wake Forest Neurology for residency. Everyone I spoke to was warm and welcoming. The exceptional training in the all subspecialties offered here gave me the confidence that I will receive the education and training to prepare me for any path I take in neurology. Best thing about being a resident here? The people! Everyone is so nice and supportive, and constantly encouraging you on. It makes a difference be in a supportive environment while being in a high intensity environment. Everyone is a friend and ready to help and answer questions, so being new and a learner never felt like a bad thing.

What’s great about living in W-S? Everything. It is safe, fun and full of places to explore. It strikes the perfect balance of being big enough and eventful, small enough to not be overwhelming and family friendly. Also plenty of coffee shops to explore! Favorite thing to do in W-S, the region. Walking around Reynolda Garden with my wife. The greenery of the gardens as well as the gravel path around the park (and the coffee shops in the village) are a great place to unwind and recharge. Career goals and research interests I am heavily leaning toward neurocritical care and stroke in an academic setting. Research wise, I am interested in the data behind access and equity in neurology and medicine as a whole. It is a new interest that allows me to bring together my interest in public health and medicine with the purpose to improve the quality of care provided to communities and populations.

Kalyn Dyer
Hi! I'm Kalyn. I'm originally from Georgia and coming to Wake for residency is my first time living outside of Georgia. I am engaged to my college sweetheart, Zach, who works as an AEMT for Forsyth County EMS. We have two fur babies, a hound mix named Veronica Ann and a tabby cat named Magnus. In my spare time, I love to read (especially historical fiction), garden (I have over 50 species of house plants and succulents), watch movies (currently rewatching the Harry Potter series!) and visiting art museums (Impressionist art is my favorite). Several things really stood out to me about Wake when I was interviewing. For one, I was really impressed by the wide array of different conditions you get to treat as a resident here. In addition, there is plenty of exposure to all sub-specialties so you can make an informed decision about your career interests. Secondly, I am a first-generation medical school grad in my family and so I was looking for a program that could provide me with lots of support and guidance and I definitely got the feeling that was the case during my interview (and I can confirm that's definitely the case now that I am here!).

My favorite thing about being a resident here so far is how kind everyone is. Even though I am an intern in the Internal Medicine department, I have had several neurology residents reach out to check in on me and provide support during the transition to residency. In addition, I love how close I already am to my co-neurology internes and I've even made amazing friends within the Internal Medicine department, too! My favorite thing about living in Winston-Salem is that you get all the amenities of living in a big city without all the downfalls of living in a big city. For example, the restaurants are amazing and there's lots of great parks to check out, but you don't have to worry about traffic (even at "rush hour")! My favorite thing to do so far is visiting local plant shops (I love House of Plants and Frank's Perennial Border) and trying out breweries with my fiancé. Our favorite Breweries so far are Wise Man Brewing and Incendiary, but we have so many more to try! I'm still not completely certain what my career goals and interests are, but as of right now I'm interested in Movement Disorders and would like to stay in academic medicine.

William “Will” Watson
After growing up in Durham, NC, my family moved to Nacogdoches, TX, a small town where I graduated in a high school class of five. I attended Mississippi College for my undergraduate degree, running on the track and cross-country teams while studying biology and then I completed medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. I am thrilled to be returning to North Carolina after a long sojourn away, and look forward to serving my patients here while learning how to be a good neurologist. Why I chose Wake Forest Neurology for residency I knew that I would receive high quality clinical training in neurology at Wake Forest, and the alive-and-well culture of biomedical innovation in Winston-Salem made me want to be a part of what was going on here.

During my interview, I could tell that the faculty really cared about the education and well-being of residents and that this would be an excellent place to learn neurology. When my family and I came and visited the city, we knew we would enjoy living here and that sealed the deal in my mind. Though I have only been a resident for a few months as of the time of writing, I have already been impressed by the supportive culture here. Residents are so willing to help each other, and the faculty physicians I have encountered are both very personable and provide expert clinical expertise to patient care.

What’s great about living in W-S? If you like to get outside, the weather is so nice and there are great places in and around Winston Salem to get out and enjoy (Salem Lake, Reynolda House and Gardens, Salem Creek Greenway Trail, Hobby Park, etc.). There are also some great restaurants around the city while not being such a large urban setting that you have to fight traffic to get home at the end of the day. If I have a free morning, I like to go for a run at Pilot Mountain or take a few laps around the Reynolda House or the Wake undergrad campus. Bonus points if followed by a leisurely cup of coffee afterwards. Goals are to learn how to take care of my patients as best as I can. I also am interested in medical education and how to make the ever-growing body of medical knowledge manageable for upcoming physicians.