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New ORI Logo

New Kenan Scholars Program Logo


Hello Rural Friends, it is hard to believe it has been almost a year since we were free to gather, hug, and travel at will. However, we continue the work of identifying, training, and supporting amazing individuals who desire to practice medicine in our rural and underserved areas. In this edition of our newsletter we will introduce you to our new logos (see above), share our latest cohort of Kenan Primary Rural Scholars, highlight the work of our Kenan Scholars, share resources and celebrate the work of the Office of Rural Initiatives. Check out our new “Director’s Desk” segment featuring a note from our ORI Director, Meredith Bazemore.

COVID and Rural Health

Please take a look at the Daily Yonder COVID-19 Dashboard for Rural America to see how the rural areas of our country are being affected. This pandemic has again highlighted and magnified health disparities the citizens of rural America are often faced with on a daily basis.

Director’s Desk

As we start 2021, I’ve been reading and thinking about the “Friday Reflections” that are shared each week from School of Medicine leaders with our current SOM students. Included in each are some moments of reflection (aptly named) from the leadership perspective, sometimes there are book recommendations, resources, funny moments, sad moments, but mainly moments that feel familiar no matter who you are. I would love to provide you all a quote that inspires, but honestly, my brain is already tired, and it is only February so, I’ll give you this and what is on my mind which may or may not be helpful.

I am over COVID. I am over not traveling. I am over ZOOM- I am so over Zoom.  I am over wondering why it has taken a global pandemic for many to recognize the challenges all of us have known existed (technology access, healthcare, education, food insecurity) in rural and underserved communities. Why did it take all of the deaths of Black people in 2020 to wake up the masses to the injustices?

I don’t know.

But here is also what I know. We have 10 new Kenan Rural Scholars, we are selecting 5 new Kenan Urban Scholars, and we have new conversation and dedication to work around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at all levels at SOM. And that helps me focus on how ORI and our team can continue to advance the work to address disparities in marginalized communities across the state.

2021 has not had an easy start, and it followed a VERY HARD 2020, BUT there is hope and there are people like you and many others committed to making a difference. This has been shown in the volunteer hours at vaccination clinics, alumni signing contracts across rural NC, and voices rising up to demand change. And while counting the number of Zoom calls on my calendar makes me want to hide under the covers, I am so incredibly grateful to have the ability to stay connected, to get to do this work, and talk to people that normally may have just been an email or phone call. It’s nice to see faces.

And there is a vaccine (admittedly, with a challenged rollout), but a vaccine, and one of the lead researchers that developed the vaccine is a UNC Alumni from NC. So basically UNC alumni (and students) are awesome.

So y’all, let’s hang in there. Check on each other, let us know how you are, and when travel is a thing, come see us (please) We miss all of you!

-Meredith Bazemore

2020 Summer Projects

As this is being formatted on a cold, dreary, wintery day I think about the weirdest summer many of us have encountered and encourage you to acknowledge the resilience and adaptability we’ve all shown to get to today. Continue to show yourself and others grace as we navigate through unprecedented times. It’s difficult to imagine what summer 2021 will look like-(or next month!) but with the vaccine rollout and continued efforts to decrease COVID numbers we remain optimistic. Here’s to a more “normal” 2021 summer !!

Even with the MANY ways summer looked different, we are fortunate to have amazing preceptors and partnership across the state and our 2020 cohort of Kenan Rural and Urban Scholars were still able to have a robust, educational, and hands-on summer clinical experience despite the challenges of being in the midst of a global pandemic. Continue reading to learn more about their summer experiences and to see examples of the projects developed by our Rural Scholars during this time addressing issues ranging from food insecurity to the employment of POCUS (point of care ultrasound) in a rural setting. To learn more about these and past summer projects please visit our website.

Michael McLendon
Michael's Summer Project

Kristen Larson
Kristen's Poster Project

Cameron Harris
Cameron's Project Poster

The Kenan Urban Scholars program in partnership with WakeMed Raleigh launched during Summer 2020 against startling odds.  This summer, students volunteered with Meals on Wheels, helped to dig an urban garden for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, sorted perishable food, picked vegetables for the Interfaith Food Shuttle and dug deep into the historical roots of redlining and other social practices in Raleigh and all over the US which disproportionately impacted communities of color’s health and wellbeing.

urban scholars community garden 2020

Students worked on projects ranging from the impact of COVID on unhoused individual’s ability to meet their health needs to developing bilingual resources about access to preschool education for pediatric families.  The impact of these scholar’s projects and volunteer hours was felt throughout the WakeMed system, and we look forward to them returning to the Raleigh campus in March!

The Kenan Urban Scholars program gave me a vision and direction for how I want to craft not only my medical education, but my medical career. The didactics and volunteer opportunities opened me up to experiences I never imagined, and it has by far been the most impactful thing I have done in medical School and beyond! Richard Beckett-Ansa, Kenan Urban Scholar

2021 Kenan Primary Rural Scholars

After a competitive application cycle we are proud to announce our newest cohort of Kenan Rural Primary Care Scholars. They hail from across the state (and a lil bit across the TN state line) and bring interests such as pickleball, playing guitar and hanging out with pet rabbits. We are thrilled to have them as part of the ORI/Kenan family and look forward to all of the amazing things they will accomplish as students and as rural practitioners as they help reshape the landscape of health in rural North Carolina. Please join us in welcoming them and leave your words of encouragement and/or advice below!

Cy FogelmanCy Fogleman was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC where he developed a passion for serving others in need as young boy. At age 12 he started a nonprofit project at Forsyth Hospital’s NICU, Project Brotherly Love, that continues to deliver care packages to this day. This experience ignited a desire to dedicate his life to serving others as a physician. Cy attended Wake Forest University where he studied Philosophy and Chemistry and also served on the campus EMS team for three years. Upon graduation, he served with Forsyth County EMS in his hometown for one year. Cy’s personal mission is to provide excellent personalized healthcare while also serving the needs of his community. He has learned that to effectively serve, one must listen to those in need and then work tirelessly to accomplish the goal no matter the personal sacrifice. For Cy, serving his community through medicine and community service is not just a catchy mission statement, it is a lifestyle that he has demonstrated up to this point and will continue to demonstrate for the rest of his life. Cy and his wife plan to dedicate their entire life to serving a rural community of NC as Family Medicine doctors and will work tirelessly to bring happiness and health to this community. In his free time, Cy loves spending time with family and landscaping.


Adele BernardAdele Bernard is from Montreal, Canada and Asheville, North Carolina (NC). After completing her Bachelor’s in Public Health at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, she worked in healthcare consulting before pivoting toward a career in medicine. Her experiences volunteering to meet the holistic needs of NC patients as a lay cancer patient navigator, healthcare marketplace application counselor, and birth doula affirmed her desire to work as a primary care physician. She’s especially interested in learning more about integrative medicine and how it can bolster disease prevention efforts in a primary care setting. She’s excited to be back in Western North Carolina where you’ll find her eating tacos, running, or losing on the pickleball court.


Reese WillinghamReese Willingham grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina and calls Hendersonville her home. She attended UNC-Asheville for her undergraduate education because she couldn’t stand to leave the mountains. Reese has worked as a Habilitation Technician, providing one-on-one care to individuals with Intellectual / Developmental Disabilities, and she has seen first-hand how difficult it is to receive healthcare in Hendersonville, despite the ever-bustling Asheville being right next door. Reese is passionate about primary care and serving as many people as possible. During her free time, she likes to play video games, hike, and hang out with her dog.


Josh TannerJosh Tanner was raised in a small town called Murphy, NC in the Appalachian Mountains. He received his undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering from NC State University. Experiencing socioeconomic barriers firsthand in his rural hometown provided him with insight of the daily obstacles low-income and underserved populations face. Before entering medical school, he focused on continuity of care for underserved populations as a care coordinator at the UNC Internal Medicine Clinic. During this time, he also coordinated a research project that focused on the integration of telemedicine-based diabetic retinopathy screening in the primary care setting. As a Kenan Scholar, he hopes to further his understanding of treating rural and underserved populations and is interested in incorporating innovative approaches to address health disparities. Outside of medicine, he enjoys brewing coffee, trying new foods, and bird watching.


Hannah HulshultHannah Hulshult was born and raised in Elizabethton, a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of Northeast Tennessee. She attended Wake Forest University for her undergraduate degree and knew that she wanted to come back to NC for medical school. At Wake Forest, she majored in Sociology with a concentration in Health and Well-being. After graduation, Hannah was awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Research Scholarship to complete a public health research project at St. John’s Medical College in India. She then worked as a medical scribe back in TN while applying to medical school. Her passion for rural medicine stems from her upbringing, and as she learned more about the social determinants of health through her studies and research, she developed a strong interest in primary care. Hannah is committed to serving individuals in rural and underserved areas and helping to address the social factors that affect community health. She is excited to spend part of her medical school experience in Asheville and Western NC, as she will be close to home and serving a community similar to that in which she grew up. In her free time, she enjoys singing, reading, and spending time with friends and family.


Bryan ObikaBryan Obika was born in Charlotte, NC, and raised in Waxhaw, NC. He attended UNC Chapel Hill for his undergraduate career, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Health – Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. During his time as an undergraduate, Bryan volunteered at the UNC Children’s Hospital as a Surgery and Sedation Center liaison, and during his service he learned of how so many people from surrounding rural areas would drive over an hour just to see a doctor, highlighting the need for more access to hospitals in those areas. Bryan also shadowed at Cornerstone Medical, where he witnessed the importance of physicians in underserved areas as pillars of their community. His interests in medicine are General Surgery and Internal Medicine. When Bryan isn’t studying, he likes to read, work out, watch horror movies, and hang out with friends. He is incredibly excited to be a part of a program that will better prepare him to serve the place that he calls home: North Carolina!


Anna JacksAnna Jacks was raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Connelly Springs, North Carolina. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill for her undergraduate education where she majored in Biology. After graduating, she took an intermittent break from Chapel Hill to NC State where she completed a physiology program but is happy to be back as a Tarheel. Anna’s interest in rural medicine evolved from the close-knit community of her small town and as a volunteer at her local free health clinic. In addition, she has a strong interest in global rural medicine, as she saw a severe health care need in Haiti, serving with a medical mission team. From these experiences, Anna is committed to helping underserved populations like these and particularly wants to emphasize greater health care education in her practice. She is undecided about a particular specialty at the moment but is interested in primary care, OB/GYN, and general surgery. In her time off, Anna enjoys kayaking, hosting movie nights, and spending time with her pet rabbit, Luna.


Uty UtinUty Utin was raised in Durham, NC. His passion for medicine was cultivated by the diverse populations of people he came across during his time both as a student and teacher within the Durham Public Schools system. As well as his time working as an emergency medicine scribe in Chatham, NC. There he noticed that although rural, there were many patients from diverse backgrounds. Most of these more diverse patients, however, were treated mostly by doctors who did not look like them. He later came to the realization that most of NC is rural with diverse populations of people living in it. This encouraged Uty to seek out opportunities, through the Kenan Rural Scholars program, to attend to the medical needs of all patients represented in rural NC. His goal is to help in whatever capacity to improve representation of diverse doctors within these rural spaces. His diverse upbringing instilled in him the desire to help others regardless of race, culture, or ethnicity. Uty currently resides in Durham with his spouse, and their two-year-old son. He enjoys spending any available time with his family.


Keny Murillo BrizuelaKeny Murillo Brizuela was born in Honduras but has lived in the Triangle area for most of his life. Even though Durham is now home, Keny attended high school in a tiny town called Stem, North Carolina. Keny attended Wake and Durham Technical Community Colleges before transferring to Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where he studied biology. During his gap years before med school, Keny worked as a Spanish medical interpreter at Duke University Hospital, and most recently, he was a research associate at the Center for Women’s Health Technologies, a Duke University biomedical engineering research lab that innovates technologies for cervical and breast cancer prevention and treatment. Keny is passionate about women’s health and increasing healthcare access to underserved communities. He is a Triage Coordinator at the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC), a clinic in Carrboro, N.C. that provides free health care and services to those in the community, and he is also part of CAMPOS, an enrichment program that hopes to graduate more students who can independently care for Latinx populations. Keny is interested in an OBGYN specialty and hopes to learn how to better serve rural communities through the Kenan Program. When not studying, Keny is on a long run, hiking, spending time with his family and eating. Keny is a big foodie!


Again, we are excited to have our newest Scholars on board and look forward to supporting them in any way possible. Reminder, please leave your congrats and advice for them below.

News and Resources

  1. NC Rural Center
    • NC Rural Summit March 15th-17th
  2. Rural Fellows Panel current ORI Fellows discuss their Med School-Rural Fellowship journey 3/25 6p-7:30p (email Kewana for invite)
  3. NRHA (National Rural Health Association) Annual Conference May 4th-7th (Virtual)
  4. UNC Family Medicine Academy (18y-20y interested in medicine) June 24th & June 25th
  5. UNC Sheps Center NC Rural Health Research Program
  6. NC Office of Rural Health and Community
  7. Daily Yonder
  8. Rural Health Information Hub