Mentor, Developer, Maximizer, Futuristic, Strategic

These are the words Angela Sharkey MD, FAAP, senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education and professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest School of Medicine uses to describe herself. Sharkey’s primary responsibilities are for the overall strategic direction, operation, and management of the MD program for both the Winston-Salem and Charlotte campuses. She will lead the development of an innovative curriculum grounded in a desire to integrate basic science, clinical science and health systems science throughout the curriculum with content and experience delivered in the context of clinical care.

A woman with short dark hair and wearing a black suit and black and white blouse smiles and stands next to a bannister

Sharkey received her bachelor’s degree cum laude in Psychology from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, and her medical degree from Saint Louis University School of Medicine. She completed her residency at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, and her fellowship from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She is board certified as a Pediatric Cardiologist.

Before joining the Wake Forest School of Medicine, Sharkey was previously the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a Professor in the Departments of Biomedical Sciences and Pediatrics at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. Prior to that role, she built her clinical practice and research and administrative expertise while on faculty at Washington University and Saint Louis University.

Sharkey certainly has a strong background that positions her to lead the School of Medicine into its next chapter, but that is just the beginning. Get to know her in her own words.

What inspires or motivates you?

I am motivated to build a culture and environment where each individual, student, staff, and faculty, can become their best possible selves and thereby the institution can best benefit from each individual’s unique attributes, talents and gifts.

Tell us about your background. What’s your experience and how did you get into the field?

My father was a family physician in central Illinois. He delivered babies, performed surgeries and cared for his patients and our neighbors. My mom encouraged my five siblings and me to be the best we could be and to be sure that we could always stand on our own two feet. So with the encouragement of my parents, I decided to pursue a career in medicine. My great uncle, who was a research pharmacist, once told me I was wasting a perfectly good spot for a male student. I think that made me all the more determined to succeed!

What made you want to teach?

I am a pediatric cardiologist by training and a medical educator by passion. Sharing knowledge with others, and generating new knowledge through collaborative research brings me great satisfaction. When I am in clinic and discover a great clinical exam finding, like a mitral valve click in a patient with Marfan syndrome, if there is no learner there to share that with, I am disappointed.

What makes teaching at Wake unique?

Wake Forest School of Medicine has a long tradition of clinical and research excellence. With the new partnership with Atrium Health to expand our medical education and research endeavors, I see a real opportunity to change health care delivery, to innovate in education, research and clinical care and to maintain the stellar reputation of the School of Medicine for the next generation of health care providers. Our academic learning health system incorporates learners, leverages research and distills key discoveries that we can disseminate across our entire enterprise and beyond.

What do you do at work on a daily basis?

Since starting in September, I have been learning, learning, learning and meeting with stakeholders to determine what we are doing well, what we want to continue to do and what we could do better, what we want to strategically change. The best part of my day is when I run into a student in the hallway or on my way out of the office and I get to learn more about them and their dreams and aspirations.

What skills should someone pursuing a career in healthcare have?

Resilience. It is a trait perhaps, not a skill, but resilience is needed to survive and thrive in medicine. There will always be change – in health systems, in managing populations, in navigating the relationship between patient and provider. To do this well, resilience, compassion and "grit" are essential.

What advice do you have for future students?

Medical education is a journey, not a sprint. The years of training and your continued practice will be most beneficial to those who come under your care if you remember the journey.

What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of work?

I enjoy being out of doors, hiking, fly-fishing, spending time with my husband and our dog, Stella. I also love spending time with family – our three young-adult children, our parents – but limitations for travel during COVID-19 have made that hard on us. We look forward to getting back to more time with family which we have been missing during the pandemic.