Parent and Family Blog

Giving Thanks

-By Cameron Isaacs, December 4, 2012

UNC School of Medicine student Cameron Isaacs recently passed along the following letter to thank Carolina Medical Friends and Families Fund donors for supporting a Research Travel Grant awarded by the  John B. Graham Medical Student Research Society.

Dear Donors:

I am writing to sincerely thank you for your generosity in funding my research travel award.  Beyond providing significant financial support, your donation has reinforced my appreciation and respect for UNC and the Carolina family.

With the funding provided by the travel award, I was able to attend and present my research at the annual meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine in Chicago, IL, on May 12th, 2012. My poster, entitled “Shared Decision Making in the Selection of Outpatient Analgesics for Older Emergency Department Patients,” was presented alongside the work of hundreds of students, faculty, and other researchers from across the country as part of an exciting poster session. Presenting my poster allowed me to not only convey my work and results to other members of the research community, but also afforded me an opportunity to receive invaluable feedback from experienced and acclaimed researchers, many of whom expressed sincere interest in my project and some of whom became interested in actually expanding my project beyond UNC. Much of this feedback has already been incorporated into my project and research manuscript, which has been submitted to and is awaiting review from a medical journal.

Perhaps most importantly, the conference provided an excellent and appropriate avenue for presenting our results and conveying our conclusions to other physicians and researchers. The underlying aim of my research is to examine how to provide safe and adequate analgesia to older patients in the emergency department. Research focusing on the provision of care to this important patient population is critical as our nation ages, and I believe that the discussion and presentation of this research is increasingly important, if not essential, for the provision of quality health care in the emergency department.

Attending the conference was an unforgettable experience that has significantly improved my medical school experience as well as inspired me to continue pursuing a career in academic medicine. Thank you again for so generously supporting UNC medical students.


Cameron G. Isaacs

Support UNC Med Students with your Holiday Shopping!

-By Judy Hines, November 8, 2012

My daughter, Rachel Hines, and her husband, Tyler Jones, are fourth-year med students at UNC. Rachel and Tyler have both been the beneficiaries of scholarships, and this year I approached the Medical Foundation with an opportunity to further support UNC School of Medicine students beyond the annual donations I've been giving.

I sell Silpada Designs fine sterling silver jewelry to help generate funds for some of my favorite causes, and this year my focus is on supporting the UNC School of Medicine. If you are interested in helping support the medical school with your holiday jewelry shopping, please contact me (301-938-3046, I can send you a link to my online catalog. For any purchases made by Thursday, Dec. 6, 30% of your order will be donated to the Carolina Medical Friends and Families Fund to provide much-needed help for UNC med students. Note that you will need to select the Carolina Medical Friends and Families Fund party at checkout.

This is a great opportunity for us to give back in style! If you have any questions or would like to start shopping today, don't hesitate to contact me at (301) 938-3046 or Thanks considering helping out this important cause with your holiday shopping.




Community Week Reflections

Written by: Will Garneau, October 18, 2012

Will Garneau Community WeekMy name is Will Garneau and I am a second-year medical student at UNC from Durham, NC.  For community week I work with Dr. Yuthapong Sukkasem – a family medicine doctor in Salisbury, NC.  Located about an hour northeast of Charlotte, Salisbury is the county seat of government for Rowan County.  As someone who grew up in the triangle area I was pleased to be placed in a part of North Carolina that was new to me and I have enjoyed my time working and learning with the community of Salisbury.

As a medical student I live in housing provided by North Carolina AHEC (Area Health Education Center).  The place where I stay is a very comfortable three-bedroom suburban home close by my preceptor’s office.  I share the house with other students from other allied-health schools throughout the state who are doing clinical rotations in the area – it is an interesting way to meet folks from outside the UNC med school “bubble.”  On my five-minute commute to the office I pass Rowan Regional Medical Center, a BBQ restaurant or two (Lexington, NC is nearby) and the original location of the first Food Lion grocery store.

Dr. Sukkasem – or “Dr. Yut” as he prefers to go by – operates a practice with two clinic rooms where he sees patients and a couple staff to assist with clerical work and checking patients in.  During the day we alternate between the rooms conducting visits with different folks, many of them older as Salisbury is popular among retirees, and I am impressed by the degree to which Dr. Yut can recall the stories and details of his patients’ lives and usually elicit a laugh or two in the process.  As I follow Dr. Yut into the room, he will turn back and introduce me “Hello. Today I have a student with me.  This is Will from UNC.”  The patients will then insist that I’m lucky because Dr. Yut is the best, even if they sometimes joke that I’m going to the wrong medical school (who knew there were so many Duke fans in Salisbury?)

In addition to his clinic and roster of regular outpatients, Dr. Yut devotes time to going to nearby rest homes where he does patient visits, checks in with nursing staff and consults with other physicians.  He is also a regular volunteer doctor with Good Shepherd’s Clinic, a local clinic for disadvantaged folks in the area; I have enjoyed these visits and comparing the clinic there to the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) clinic run by students which is held in Carrboro on Wednesday nights.

I remember the first time I traveled to Salisbury for community week was after I had just completed our first course in the first year – “Molecules to Cells.”  The class is an introduction to some of the basic biochemistry that underlie the physiology of the body – important stuff indeed, but from some early training in our clinical skills course I wasn’t entirely sure what I could contribute as a student doctor.  The first week in Salisbury consisted of some shadowing – observing patient interviews, starting to develop an idea of how the visits were structured, how to ask focused questions – not exactly the exhaustive litany we committed to memory for our standardized patient encounters, it was comprehensive without an unnecessary amount of detail.

Another thing I was not used to was that these were mostly normal, follow-up appointments.  In our small group case studies there was always a didactic point to the patient’s presentation – each bit of diagnostic data illustrated a clinical picture we were meant to assemble.  I don’t remember reading cases about routine follow-ups in which the patient had a normal exam, got some lab work, discussed the UNC football team, or spent so much time chatting about what was going on with their children.  With these folks there wasn’t some kind of mysterious eponymous disease to be unraveled through the presentation – no magic diagnosis to be elicited by asking “the right question.”  What I was learning here was the human side – like how to keep up a good conversation while simultaneously positioning one’s self while holding the patient’s arm and inflating the blood pressure cuff – this was just as much the art of medicine as the schoolwork I’d left behind in Chapel Hill.

The goal of these weeks has been to reinforce the clinical skills we are taught at UNC, that we review with standardized patients and which we are tested on with regular clinical assessments.  So far in my community weeks I have been taking histories, working on the physical exam and performing a patient presentation.  These real-world experiences have aided my own nascent skills as a clinician and help me prepare for our clinical years ahead.   I have appreciated both Dr. Yut’s willingness to have me as a student, his staff’s friendliness for making me feel welcome and also the courtesy of his patients who feel comfortable talking to a student.  It’s also been humbling to realize how advanced my preceptor’s knowledge and abilities far surpass my own at this point in my educational career.  I am encouraged to reflect on the progress from where I was a year ago and have no doubt that over the years I will be equipped as a physician to help people who will depend on my competence, dedication and experience.  If medical school sometimes feels a little like the driver’s education car with two steering wheels, Dr. Yut is a great person to have giving me guidance from the passenger seat as I start down the road of clinical education.



Celebrating 60 Years of Care

Written by: Kelly Mansfield, October 10, 2012

2012 is an important year for medicine at UNC, as it marks the 60th anniversary of our hospital and four-year medical school. Although the first University-sponsored School of Medicine was established in 1879, the school only offered a two-year program. Sixty years ago, World War II had just ended, and North Carolina had more men rejected for service than any other state. In effort to begin tackling this and other significant health problems in the state, the North Carolina Hospital and Medical Care Commission was created in 1945.

During the fall of 1951, North Carolina Memorial Hospital was under construction as part of the Good Health Plan’s multi-tiered approach to bettering the health of North Carolinians. In addition to building new community hospitals and modernizing existing ones, recommendations to expand the two-year UNC School of Medicine into a four-year program demanded the construction of an affiliated large general hospital. Today, the hospital has expanded to a complex Health Care System that educates students, trains residents who have chosen to practice in North Carolina, and has improved access to health care across the state. The article below, published on Sunday, September 30, 1951 in the Durham Morning Herald, tells the story of the beginnings of a hospital that truly became the cornerstone of a state-wide plan and so much more.

First four-year medical class

The North Carolina Good Health Program Is Reaching Maturity
Sunday, Sept. 30, 1951 - Durham Morning Herald
By Robert W. Madry

CHAPEL HILL – After struggling through growing pains for half a dozen years, the North Carolina Good Health Program has finally reached the stage of adolescence and seems well along the way to maturity.

Five years ago there were 33 counties in North Carolina without a hospital bed. Today the number has been cut to 17. A total of 104 projects looking toward a healthier North Carolina have been initiated since the program was activated in 1947. They involved a budget of $60,000,000.

Forty-four of the projects have been completed, 46 are under construction, and 14 are projected. The State’s hospital facilities have been increased by about one-third. Under the program set up in 1947 a total of 39 new hospitals were to be built, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story, for substantial additions were provided for 29 of the existing hospitals to bring the total to 68 with 4,287 beds.

When this program is completed, no citizen in North Carolina will be more than an hour’s driving distance from one of these hospitals. Fifteen health centers were in the plan, and five of these have already been completed. Of 15 nursing homes approved, nine have been completed and six are under construction. The 15 nursing homes will give the State an additional 1,013 beds.

Added up, this means that North Carolina now ranks second in the nation in post-war hospital construction. Figures from the U.S. Public Health Service include work under contract last July 1 and show that Texas leads with 5,176 beds, followed by North Carolina with 4,287. Other states next in order are Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Great Increase In Hospital Beds
North Carolina has had a phenomenal increase in hospital beds in the last quarter of the century. In 1924 there were 2,186, in 1947 9,635. The number now is estimated at 14,000.

The size of the hospitals range from 20-bed institutions such as those at Bryson City, Sparta and Belhaven to the 400-bed teaching hospital being constructed at Chapel Hill in conjunction with the University’s expanded four-year medical school. Seven of the plans have a hundred beds or more. Dr. John A. Farrell, executive secretary of the North Carolina Medical Care Commission, points out that only a third the burden of the total new program has been borne by the State.

In round figures, the program, as of July, had cost more than $60,000,000 approximately one-third of which was appropriated respectively by the State, and the cities and counties of North Carolina.Under the plans it is the responsibility of the University of North Carolina’s Health Center at Chapel Hill to serve as the cornerstone for the State-wide program.

A report just issued by Dr. Henry T. Clark, Jr., administrator of the recently created Division of Health Affairs, presents an amazing picture of progress at the Health Center during the last academic year. At the University here, Dr. Clark’s report emphasizes, a large, complicated and in many respects unique Health Center, is growing from relatively humble beginnings. “Approximately 85 percent of the proposed construction for the Health Center is now committed to contracts, and the State Budget Bureau has authorized the transfer of certain financial reserves which will cover remaining essential needs,” the report says.

New Medical Facilities
Planning and construction of new medical facilities made steady progress during the academic year 1950-51. The main 400-bed teaching hospital and out-patient clinic, on which construction was begun in October, 1949, are now 70 per cent completed despite a strike during the past winter. This building should be turned over to the University by January, 1952, and be ready for acceptance of patients by the following April.

In August, 1950, the contract was let for a cancer research floor in the clinic building, for which the U.S. Public Health Service contributed $200,000, and this floor will be completed at the same time as the main hospital and clinic building. Construction of dormitory quarters for approximately 100 interns, resident and fellows was started in November, 1950, and this building should be ready for use by June, 1952.

Contracts were let last March for a North “wing” to the main medical building to provide necessary increased teaching and research facilities for the Departments of Pathology, Anatomy and Pharmacology. Plans are now underway for a comparable South “wing” which will be started by October.

Since the main offices of the School of Public Health occupy the ground floor of this same building, the “wing” construction will also provide some space relief for that School. In July a contract was let for converting the top floor of the present infirmary (which is, in effect, a wing of the main hospital) into an obstetrical floor and for the addition of another floor to complete the obstetrical-gynecological in-patient facilities.

TB and Psychiatry Units

In addition to these construction projects, action by the 1951 General Assembly provided for two more key units for the total Health Center. In the field of tuberculosis, funds were appropriated by the Legislators of 1949 and 1951 to the North Carolina Sanatorium Board of Directors to construct a 100-bed chest unit adjacent to the main University hospital. The Federal government also appropriated $500,000 by way of the Hill-Burton Act.

In the field of Psychiatry, funds were made available by the 1951 General Assembly to the North Carolina Hospitals Board of Control to develop a central teaching service facility at the University. A 60-bed psychiatric unit is now being planned jointly by the University and Board of Control representatives as a wing to the main hospital. An additional floor for alcoholics is also being planned in this unit with other State funds made available to the University through a special committee of the Hospitals Board of Control. It is hoped that construction on these new projects will be under way by mid-Fall this year. 

Two key clinical appointments in the Medical School have been made recently. They are Dr. Nathan Womack, professor of surgery in the University of Iowa, as Professor of Surgery, and Dr. Charles W. Burnett, formerly Professor of Medicine at Southwestern School of Medicine, as Professor of Medicine.

The regular basic science teaching program in the Medical School functioned at an increased tempo during 1950-51 since instruction of the first class of dental students was added to the usual teaching load. This Fall 58 highly promising students, a maximum class, have been accepted for the first-year class in medicine.

In the field of research, the basic science faculty has been as active as heavy teaching programs, cramped quarters and small budgets permitted. As one indication of activity, however, there were 57 publications from the various departments during the year and modest “outside” grants of over $100,000 for 17 individual projects.

In the field of service, the Department of Pathology deserves special mention for its diagnostic and consulting services to 28 hospitals in the State, to 44 surgeons in private practice, to the State mental and tuberculosis hospitals and to Watts Hospital in Durham. In post-graduate education an outstanding series of lectures and clinics was sponsored in each of seven communities over the State. Approximately 300 practitioners from a wide area attended these programs. 

Progress of Medical Foundation
Related to all this development has been the growing activity of The Medical Foundation of North Carolina, Inc., under the able direction of its President, Major L.P. McLendon, and its Executive Vice-President, Dr. C. Sylvester Green. Charters in May, 1949, with some 453 leading citizens of North Carolina as sponsors, it has as its objective the procuring of funds to promote the health of the people of North Carolina. The objectives of the Foundation are $100,000 per year in expendable funds and the eventual building of a multimillion dollar endowment. During its first full year of operation, the goal for expendable funds was passed and progress was made on the endowment. 

The School of Nursing under the leadership of Dean Elizabeth Kemble, and her staff after a year of intensive preparation, is off to a good started with its First class this Fall. Contracts for the School of Nursing building and its associated dormitories were let in October, 1950. Work on these is now approximately 40 per cent completed and they are expected to be in use by June, 1952. Plans for construction of one of the three dormitories – the one proposed to house graduate nurses – had to be postponed because of inadequate funds. An integrated four-year program of nursing education, with admission of freshman women student, was approved by the Board of Trustees last March.

School of Dentistry
The School of Dentistry proved its vigor by accepting its first class of 40 student last Fall, by conducting its instruction program largely in Quonset huts, and by developing what one faculty member described as “the finest group spirit in my 25 years of dental instruction.” The arrival of a second class this month has created even greater space problems but these are being met on an improvised basis.

Adequate facilities for dental instruction await the completion of the “wings” to the Medical Building (for basic science instruction) and the School of Dentistry building itself (for clinical instruction). Construction of the School of Dentistry building began in August. The Dental faculty now numbers 13. These are fine men and their presence is added assurance that other excellent men will be attracted to the School of Dentistry faculty as needed.

The Dental Foundation of North Carolina, Inc., was established in November, 1950, by a group of forward-looking dentists of the State with its primary purpose being to give financial support to the School of Dentistry for research and other activities not commonly supported by State appropriations. The first $20,000 was promptly contributed by the organizing group.

The 11-year-old School of Public Health, one of only two such schools in the Southeastern states, continued its remarkable growth during the year by adding an 11th department – the Department of Maternal and Child Health – and by again functioning at capacity operation both in its regular quarters on the ground floor of the medical building and in six other temporary or semi-permanent spots around the campus.

The School conferred 122 degrees during the year, ranging from B.S. in public health nursing to M.P.H. and Ph.D. In addition, 1,300 other non-degree students received instruction from public health faculty members in the regular courses, in institutes and in field training areas. The School now has 76 full-time staff members including 31 full-time faculty members, engaged in vital teaching, research and service work.

Of the total operating budget of $500,000, only about $200,000 represented State appropriations. In addition, approximately $100,000 represented teaching grants from private and governmental agencies, and the remaining large sum represented research grants. 

School of Pharmacy
The most noteworthy items during the year in the well-established School of Pharmacy were the promotion of Prof Edward Brecht to the Deanship, the maturing of a program for graduate education, and continued capacity operation of the undergraduate program.

In the graduate field, the first Ph.D. degree ever awarded by the School of Pharmacy was given at Commencement last June. Total graduate students numbered 12 during the year and these give promise of future distinction as teahers and research workers. As usual, graduate activities were supported almost exclusively with “outside” funds – from the North Carolina Pharmaceutical Research Foundation, Inc., and from a growing group of drug manufacturers and individual contributors.

The undergraduate student enrollment averaged 190 and there were 47 members of the graduating class. Despite its recognized national standing, the School of Pharmacy is not training enough pharmacists to fill the needs of the State. This is the only such school in North Carolina. This is shown by the fact that North Carolina stands second from the bottom among the states in ratio of registered pharmacists to population. A new and larger building is an urgent need if North Carolina’s demand for more registered pharmacists is to be met.



We Love Parents!

Written by: Dr. Georgette Dent, August 8, 2012

Dr. Dent ProfileBeing the parent of a medical student is not always easy. Chances are you have many, many questions about the medical education experience. The time and stress demands of medical school are very real, and your student may not always be able to keep you informed. Additionally, many things can get lost in translation - and if your student is a first-year medical student, he or she may have the same questions you do.

We have always loved parents, but we have not always done a good job of keeping them informed and involved. That began to change about four years ago, thanks in large part to an energetic parent from Winston-Salem named Warren Steen who helped us create our first ever Parent and Family Council. In a relatively short period of time, our council has grown in size and achieved much. Thanks to the feedback, hard work and involvement of our parents, we added a Parent and Family Panel as part of White Coat Ceremony, hosted parent socials in cities throughout North Carolina, launched an annual Spring Family Day & College Cup event, established the Carolina Medical Friends and Families Fund and supported a new residency interview travel program.

I am especially excited about our council's most recent project: this website. Created by and for parents of medical students, the Parent and Family Resources website is intended to answer your questions and cover the things that "no one tells you" when your student is accepted into medical school. We hope this gives you a better understanding of what to expect during your student's time here at the UNC School of Medicine and welcome your questions and suggestions.

Over the past few years I have been thrilled and honored to watch a true sense of community grow among our parents and families. Your students are the driving force behind everything I do, and I am extremely grateful to be a part of their lives and medical education. Thank you for your interest, your involvement, your support and the wonderful job you have done raising your children!




First-Year Student Orientation

Written by: Kelly Mansfield, August 6, 2012

Orientation Registration

The Class of 2016 officially began their medical education journey today with the first day of orientation. All first-year students were invited to a lake retreat last weekend, which provided a great opportunity for them to get to know one another and relax before taking on the daunting endeavor that is medical school. At orientation check-in, students were welcomed to campus by second-years, faculty, administrators and even the Tar Heel mascot Ramses! Want to find out more about what medical students do during orientation? Learn more at the orientation website:

Orientation Sign



Q&A with UNC Medical Student Bill Stokes

Written by: Kelly Mansfield & Bill Stokes, July 18, 2012

Medical school places continuous demands on the time and energy of our students. Despite these pressures, UNC School of Medicine student Bill Stokes took the time to share his insight on his medical education experience. A Charlotte native, Bill will graduate from the UNC School of Medicine in the spring of 2013 and recently received a Research Travel Grant from the Carolina Medical Friends and Families Fund.

Why did you choose to attend the UNC School of Medicine?
What sets the UNC School of Medicine apart in my mind is the quality of my fellow students. As an applicant on my interview day, I was impressed by the fellowship and camaraderie among the students I met. This stood in sharp contrast to the competitive, almost adversarial, nature of relationships I perceived among students at other schools. During my time at UNC, my classmates have openly shared study guides and other materials, promoting an atmosphere of cooperation and collegiality.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of medical school?
I think I will reflect most fondly on the interactions I have enjoyed with faculty. As a medical student, nothing is more meaningful than spending twenty, ten, five or even two minutes with a world-renowned expert and having him or her impart some clinical pearls. Medical school is often compared to drinking from a fire hose, and learning from physician-teachers who genuinely value teaching makes it a bit more manageable.

What specialty do you plan to pursue?
I knew from an early point in medical school that I would pursue a career in oncology. On a basic level, there is something fascinating to me about one's own cells mutating, subverting the normal physiologic balance, and acting autonomously from the rest of the body. Moreover, from a clinical standpoint, I find that oncologists are privileged among health care providers, as our patients confront fundamental concepts such as survival and legacy. We get to help them as they grapple with these issues in moments of crisis.

How did the Carolina Medical Friends and Families Fund Research Travel Grant impact your medical education experience?
Because of the grant, I was able to travel to the world's largest oncology meeting held annually in Chicago, where I presented my research project before an audience of seasoned health services research professionals, attended presentations of groundbreaking cancer research, and got to ask questions of other participants who were also presenting their work. It was inspiring to see that UNC had a strong presence at the conference, and I was honored to be a part of that.

What about being a doctor are you most looking forward to?
I look forward in my career to seeing patients in long-term follow-up whom I successfully treated years earlier, and for those whom I cannot cure, to offer support so that they can enjoy maintain their quality of life.



Congratulations to the Class of 2012!

Written by: Kelly Mansfield, May 2, 2012

2012 Graduation StudentsOn May 12th, 165 UNC School of Medicine students will gather with their loved ones in Memorial Hall to take the Oath of Hippocrates and embark on the practice of medicine. An impressive group, the Class of 2012 has achieved much both in and out of the classroom during their time at Carolina:

  • 90% of the Class of 2012 performed some type of community service as medical students in a wide variety of projects - including providing care for underserved patients in our local community, North Carolina and throughout the world.
  • 73% of the Class of 2012 took part in medical research on topics ranging from AIDS to asthma, from cochlear impantation to colon cancer, and from improving chemotherapy outcomes to improving emergency services.
  • Collectively the Class of 2012 can speak 22 languages including Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Igbo, Swahili and Urdu. One third of the class can communicate with patients in Spanish.
  • Students in the Class of 2012 have volunteered or conducted research in more than 27 different countries.
  • Parents of medical students in the Class of 2012 were responsible for getting the first-ever UNC School of Medicine Parent and Family Council off the ground.

To our Class of 2012 families, thank you for your involvement and we look forward to celebrating commencement with you!