Parents and guardians know their children best and many have concerns about their child’s educational progress – especially whether they have fallen behind in school due to the pandemic. For the past four years, the Best SELF (Supportive Enrichment and Learning for Families) program has harnessed the strengths of our academic learning health system to bridge the gap between health care employees and medical school students to provide a much-needed resource. The program supports Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist employees and their families by offering their children, who are fifth through 12th graders, the opportunity to receive free weekly academic mentorship from Wake Forest University School of Medicine students.

Best SELF is focused on academic achievement with the overarching goals to increase high school graduation rates, enhance college preparedness and advance student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It also helps employees feel confident they have the necessary support for their children so they can be their best at work. Students are also offered the opportunity to participate in experiential field trips to the Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education to learn about STEM-related career paths and two one-week summer enrichment programs that address core academic subjects combined with healthy activities to promote wellness, nutrition and fitness. Virtual academic mentorship and counseling options are also available to students.

Anthony Albert Wachnik It’s rewarding to see someone come in stressed and then leave the tutoring session more relaxed and with more clarity. Learning can be stressful and it actually helps me to de-stress watching these students learn and excel. - Tony Wachnik, second year medical student and co-president of Project Teach, which organizes student tutors/mentors that Best SELF utilizes.

One student who has participated in Best SELF is Andy Bautista. He started the program in the sixth grade and is now in the 10th grade.

“Throughout the past four years, Andy has grown so much from the Best SELF program,” said Elvia Bautista, Andy’s mom. “He’s learned how to focus better and a lot of the medical students in this program have inspired him and opened his eyes to the different possibilities out there. It’s truly been great exposure for him and he’s been able to see what positive inputs can result in.”

Parents and guardians meet monthly with program staff for updates on their child’s progress in the program and to develop and implement personalized enrichment plans.

Two people sitting side by side looking at a laptop computer and a notebook.
Tony Wachnik tutoring Andy Bautista as part of the Best SELF program.


"The Best SELF program predates the pandemic, but it’s provided even extra value to our employees since March 2020 – even though we were virtual for some time as well – due to many parents and guardians having additional concerns these days over their child’s academics and how they’re progressing,” said Stan Hill, PhD, Director of Best SELF and Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine. “Not all employees were able to work remotely during the pandemic and Best SELF was a lifeline to many. It’s a unique and useful program in that it actually addresses day-to-day school performance, grade monitoring, attendance and behavior. It also provides guidance on future course selections and the student's career path. Our employees find great value in receiving monthly feedback from our staff to discuss all aspects of their child's education.”

Each school year approximately 30 medical students provide one-on-one Best SELF academic mentorship to the children of our employees. As the 2022-2023 school year begins, they expect to serve 50 middle and high school students, the programs largest class to date.

“I tutored a lot in undergrad, mainly chemistry, and I find it very rewarding to see someone come in stressed and then leave the tutoring session more relaxed and with more clarity,” said Tony Wachnik, a second-year medical student and co-president of the Best SELF program. “It’s also meaningful to see the same people every week and build a relationship with them and then watch them succeed. Learning can be stressful and it actually helps me to de-stress watching these students learn and excel.”

Best SELF is made possible through a collaboration that includes the Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching and Learning, Wake Forest Baptist’s Family Medicine, BestHealth for Us and the School of Medicine’s Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity.