Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Brittany Stresing, Owner, LimBonics

Published in the May 2015 Durham Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

At 14, Brittany Stresing received news that both changed her life and planned her future. She was diagnosed with scoliosis and spina bifida, and she learned one leg was shorter than the other. As a result, she was fitted with orthotic braces.

The experience solidified her belief that patient care should be personal and launched her down a path to improve the healthcare process for others.

“I was handed this profession through dealing with surgery and orthotic intervention with braces,” said Stresing, 28. “I received bad care followed by good care. I realized it’s better to treat people as individuals rather than numbers.”

Today, she’s a certified prosthetist and orthotist, as well as the owner of LimBionics, a prosthetic/orthotic company in Durham. She is secretary for the N.C. Orthotics and Prosthetics Trade Association, and she is also president-elect of the N.C. Chapter of the Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists – the first woman to hold this position. In addition, she was the first woman spotlighted for the Ossur Women’s Leadership Initiative, an organization helping promote women in leadership roles.

Her goal, she said, is to maintain open communication with patients and give them a sense of security around their treatment and therapy. She provides those services in rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, or doctor’s offices. Patients also come to her from across the state.

“Whenever someone works with us, they’re always going to the same person who knows them and what they’re going through,” she said. “We take the time to find a therapy that will work with their wants and lifestyle – not just a textbook approach.”

Reaching this point wasn’t always easy, though. She was accepted to a 15-person prosthetics program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and completed a rigorous residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But, she was still one of few women in a heavily male-dominated field.

She fought against the stereotype that female prosthetists were more suited for a practice’s administrative work than building prosthetics or orthotics. Now, she consistently designs and builds some of the most technologically-advanced patient care devices available, including prosthetics that replace missing body parts and braces that strengthen feet, ankles, knees, or hips.

Every step, she said, is devoted to working with the patient to identify their needs and to design a treatment plan all parties – patients, physicians, and Stresing’s colleagues – can agree upon.

“With every patient, we evaluate how they walk, how the use their arms, or whatever body part is affected,” she said. “We work to reduce their pain and make that body part functional again.”

To read the profile at its original location: http://issuu.com/shannonmedia/docs/binderdmmay/79?e=13657385/12589504 pg. 56


June 28, 2015 Posted by | Profiles | , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Brenda Armstrong, Dean of Admissions, Duke University School of Medicine

Published in the May 2015 Durham Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

As a student in a segregated Rocky Mount, N.C., high school, Brenda Armstrong, M.D., knew she wanted to be a scientist of some sort. But, she didn’t know far her determination and the support of her family and friends would take her.

But, now, Armstrong points to events and people in her life that positioned her to use her gifts to help others.

“My life, and whatever roles I’ve been fortunate enough to find, has been about giving back,” she said. “I have wonderful gifts that no dollar amount could bring.”

Today, Armstrong, 66, has been the Duke University School of Medicine Dean of Admissions for nearly 20 years. (She’s also an associated dean for medical education, a professor of pediatrics, and a pediatric cardiologist for children, adolescents, and adults with congenital heart disease — a woman who wears many hats!) She’s changed the School’s demographic make-up to better reflect the Durham community, more than doubling the number of black applicants in her first few years and continuing to enhance diversity.

It’s an accomplishment close to her heart. While at St. Louis University School of Medicine, Armstrong was the only black woman student for three out of her four years of training. She recruited the second black woman who joined her for her final year.

Her road to steering medical school admissions was a winding one, though. It was a teaching job right out of Duke undergraduate that revealed Armstrong’s future career.

For four years, she taught science and math to the same students as they progressed through school. With her, the students rose from “C” and “D” achievers to the honor roll. That experience prompted her to pursue medical school so she could heal and teach others about their well-being.

She even had the opportunity to hone her teaching skills in medical school – this time with a support network. The custodial staff frequently asked her about her work as she studied late at night.

“When I studied by myself, the folks cleaning up would ask me what I was doing,” she said. “It was great to have someone who looked like me care about my work. They were my study aids, and they knew it.”

Because the community bolstered her, she works to give back. For more than 30 years, she’s served as the physician for the Durham Striders, a local youth track association.

“Being of the community and in the community makes me a better person,” she said. “The community has kept me grounded, has given me values, and has allowed me to use whatever gifts I have to make my community better.”

To read the profile at its original location: http://issuu.com/shannonmedia/docs/binderdmmay?e=13657385/12589504 pg. 38

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Profiles | , | Leave a comment

Public Service A Lifestyle for Knoxville Mayor Rogero

Published in the Summer 2012 Furman University Alumni Magazine

By Whitney L.J Howell

TAKE A LOOK around Furman’s campus and it’s clear there’s no “typical Furman student.” The student body is a mish-mash of ages, interests, ethnicities, accomplishments and goals.

But even among such a diversified group, Madeline Rogero was unique as a senior in 1979.

“I was a bit of an older student. I had one child already, and one was on the way,” she says. “My second child was just about
three weeks old when I graduated.”

That wasn’t the only thing that made Rogero stand out. She had transferred to Furman after a year at Temple University and two years as a political science major at Ohio State. Before her senior year, however, she felt called to help California’s farm aides — which led to a four-year hiatus from higher education, during which she worked with Cesar Chavez to help farm workers improve their living and working conditions.

Today, as mayor of Knoxville — the first woman to serve as mayor of any of Tennessee’s four largest cities (including Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga) — Rogero says those kinds of experiences shaped her view not only of public service, but of what it means to be a contributing member of a community. She jumped head-first into improving Knoxville as soon as she moved there more than 30 years ago.

“I got my start in politics as a county commissioner. I cared about neighborhood issues,” she says. “I ran for mayor because I wanted to continue the work that I had been doing — dealing with blighted properties, strengthening our communities, and actively supporting sustainability issues.”

During the past three decades Rogero has served on numerous boards, including the Knoxville Transportation Authority, Partnership for Neighborhood Improvement, and the Mental Health Association of Knox County. Her efforts have earned her many accolades, including the 2003 Knoxvillian of the Year award.

Rogero has a long history of working to revitalize areas that have fallen into disrepair. After losing a close mayoral race in 2003 to Bill Haslam — now the state’s governor — Rogero joined his administration as community development director. The Office of Neighborhoods, launched under her leadership, was instrumental in completing a $25.6 million program that helped secure tax credits, grants and bonds for businesses in economically depressed parts of the city.

Rogero and her staff also spent countless hours on commercial redevelopment, historic preservation, property redemption, and services that enhanced the community’s economy. She spearheaded a five-county collaboration that garnered a $4.3 million grant to support sustainable community planning.

Even before taking the job with the city, though, Rogero pushed to improve her community. Among other responsibilities, she consulted with Capital One Financial Corporation’s community affairs office and was executive director of Knoxville’s Promise, an organization devoted to giving youths the resources they need to become successful adults.

As mayor, Rogero is focused on redeveloping Knoxville’s south waterfront and working with a local foundation to support 10 city parks, as well as hiking and biking trails.

Although she spent only a year at Furman, she credits her time there with helping her learn to translate her real-world, outside-the-box experiences into effective civic endeavors. She points to classes with professors Jim Guth and Don Aiesi as forums where she came to understand the value of her work with Chavez.

“I remember they would often call on me during political science and constitutional law discussions because I had a lot of real and practical experience to bring to those conversations,” she said. “They knew I had a different point of view.”

From a young age, Rogero says, she felt she would become involved in causes greater than herself.

“The nuns and priests [in her Catholic schools] challenged us to be involved,” she says. “A lot of different things were happening in the ’60s — the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War. That education opened my mind beyond my personal experiences and really
instilled in me a sense of working for the world to be more equitable, inclusive and diverse.”

Rogero also learned firsthand the importance of helping others during her childhood in Florida. At any given time, foster children or other family members lived in her house. Seeing her parents open their lives to those in need taught her to reach out to others whenever she could.

That time with family also nurtured Rogero’s love of nature. Her father, she says, loved to hunt and fish, and they spent a great deal of time at the beach or on the river.

Her affinity for the outdoors has never faded. Rogero and her husband, Gene Monaco, often bike around Knoxville’s greenways or use their flatwater kayaks to paddle down the Tennessee River. Her greatest outdoor adventure, however, is being a beekeeper.

“As a family, we suit up in the gear with the veil and the gloves, and we share the honey the bees make with friends and family,” says Rogero, a mother and grandmother of two and stepmother of three. “It’s a really amazing thing to get into when you realize that
one-third of the things we eat depend on honeybees for pollination. It’s really helped me to learn about and appreciate the ecosystem we live in.”

To read the article online at its original location (p. 33): http://www2.furman.edu/sites/fumag/Documents/FM12%20SUMMER%20low%20res%20spreads.pdf

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Education, Politics, Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preventing the spread of infectious diseases

Published in the Spring 2012 Carolina Public Health Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Identifying proper treatments for eradicating infectious diseases is often “the easy part.” The hurdle is to deliver effective prevention protocols to affected populations. UNC public health researchers are overcoming this challenge with some of the world’s most contagious viruses.
Malaria causes almost a million deaths per year. Around 30 percent of adults in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are infected with malaria, according to epidemiology professor Dr. Steve Meshnick. Meshnick has worked closely with UNC geography professor Dr. Michael Emch to map the disease and identify factors responsible for its geographic spread. Read more about Meshnick’s work at www.sph.unc.edu/cph/tropical_disease.
Airborne viruses are also dangerous. A National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded team led by epidemiology professor Dr. Ralph Baric investigates why SARS infection is more lethal among individuals over age 50. Using a mouse model, the team tests how new vaccine platforms induce robust protective immunity in older adults. Furthering their work, Baric and a team from UNC and Vanderbilt University have reconstructed synthetically the bat variant of the SARS coronavirus that caused the SARS epidemic of 2003. “By reconstructing the synthetic bat SARS virus, we have a model that will allow us to design better vaccines and drugs that will treat any strain of this virus that infects humans,” Baric says.
HIV prevention in Africa
Africa’s HIV statistics fueled Dr. Frieda Behets’ interest in reducing mother-to-child transmission of the virus.
 In the Democractic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Behets’ PEPFAR*-funded team trains HIV-positive mothers as lay counselors. The counselors teach pregnant women who have HIV how to use treatments that prevent virus transmission to their infants. It is significant, Behets says, that the number of HIV-positive women contacting the community lay counselors is increasing. Her research shows that pregnant women with HIV are twice as likely overall not to return to clinics, where they could receive antenatal treatment, delivery support and postnatal care. Those who interact with lay counselors are more likely to utilize the clinics. Behets’ team helps train an interdisciplinary group that works in 44 maternities and two treatment centers in Kinshasa, DRC.
Dr. Suzanne Maman also studies whether prenatal and postnatal counseling with the same nurse prevents mother-to-infant transmission or new infections. In a five-year, 1,500-woman study in South Africa, Maman’s team examines how counseling may have affected infant feeding, contraception use and HIV testing.
Dr. Audrey Pettifor studies whether giving South African adolescent girls and their families a monthly cash transfer equivalent to $10 per month, conditional on school attendance, prevents HIV infection. The 2,900- girl randomized controlled trial will follow young women and their parents/guardians over three years to look at the impact of the program on HIV incidence.
“The theory is that keeping girls in school will reduce their risk of HIV infection,” Pettifor says. “There are many ways that schooling may be protective for young women, but providing money to them also may be protective.” Although study results will not be available until 2015, Pettifor says cash transfers seem to be a promising intervention. A study published in The Lancet on Feb. 15, for which she wrote a commentary (http://tinyurl.com/lancet-commentary), found cash transfers reduced HIV risk.
In a two-year, NIH-funded study, Maman’s team implemented microfinance interventions in “camps” in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where 15- to 19-year-old males socialize. By giving 19 men $100 loans each, researchers tested whether professional goals would deflect men from risk-taking behaviors. Although there were too few participants in this pilot study to determine impact upon behaviors, a positive outcome was that the majority of the men have repaid their loans.
Dr. Sharon Weir participates in the USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation project based in UNC’s Carolina Population Center. She helps establish international guidelines to monitor and evaluate HIV programs for gay men, transgendered individuals, sex workers and intravenous-drug users.
“These groups suffer from stigma and inadequate access to prevention services,” Weir says. “Guidelines give countries and providers tools to track coverage and identify gaps in information, counseling and treatment access.”
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer, which remains the leading cause of cancer death among women in many countries in Africa. HIV-positive women are at a notably higher risk, says Dr. Jennifer S. Smith. Using PEPFAR* funding, her team works in Kenya and South Africa to increase cervical cancer screenings, particularly among HIV-positive and higher-risk women. Smith and Dr. Noel Brewer are leading programs to eradicate cervical cancer in North Carolina and in the U.S., too.
“HIV-positive women with a lower count of CD4 cells (a type of white blood cell) have a higher risk of high-grade cervical lesions that are more likely to lead to cancer,” Smith says. “That’s important when thinking about increasing screening for HIV-positive populations.”
To read the article at its original location: http://www.sph.unc.edu/carolina_public_health_magazine/preventing_the_spread_of_infectious_diseases_22556_13720.html

June 6, 2012 Posted by | Education, Healthcare, Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scott Huler—“What You Do When You’re Not Paying Attention”

Published in the April 2011 Boom! NC Magazine

by Whitney L.J. Howell
April 2011

Sitting across the table from Scott Huler, sipping coffee at Finch’s Diner in Raleigh, it was easy for me to see why he is a successful writer. He has a palapable passion for telling stories—in fact, it’s a compulsion.

“I always tell people, don’t be a writer and don’t write a book unless you want to run out into the street and grab someone just to tell them all the little details you know about something,” said Huler, the 51-year-old Raleigh resident and father of two. “You have to have an eagerness for getting something out of your head and into someone else’s.”

It’s that enthusiasm that led Huler to be chosen as the 2011 Piedmont Laureate for his work in creative nonfiction. Throughout the year, he will give public readings of his latest book On the Grid, an in-depth, lively look at infrastructure and how it keeps our society moving. In addition, he’s working on a project to create applications for smartphones that will stream news stories based on keywords and locations.

As successful as he is today, Huler’s career was almost one that wasn’t. After graduating from college, he nearly enrolled at the University of Minnesota School of Law. Had it not been for an uncle who gave him an opportunity to do writing for his business and a friend who encouraged him to follow his lifelong dream of being a writer, Huler would’ve missed a storied career as a reporter and author.

I found it interesting that the rejection of his first novel, which he began writing in 1976, did not derail him. Instead, he scoured his manuscript and determined his best work was the book’s thinly veiled autobiographical sections. His eyes sparkled when he told me he knew he was destined for nonfiction writing at that moment. Writing was his number one priority, and his skills led him to newspaper reporting, most recently at the Raleigh News & Observer and to author several books, including one about NASCAR.

“What you catch yourself doing when you’re not really paying attention can tell you a lot about yourself,” he said. “When I started on my first novel, I’d write all the time. My friends would stop by, and I’d stop, and as soon as they’d leave, I wouldn’t even think about it. I’d sit back down and start writing again.”

But Huler doesn’t spend all his time making sure people “know what’s going on around them.” These days, he spends a good amount of time and his seemingly boundless energy serving on the Board of Temple Beth Or in Raleigh and playing in the Temple’s band. As with words, music is an important form of expression for him, and he’s passed that love on to his two children, ages six and two.

“I play the drums in the band, and I’m also a bad guitar player, a bad banjo player, a bad ukulele player, and a bad piano player,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter, music shouldn’t be a CD or a download. It should be what occurs from bringing your fingers to an instrument.”

No matter the medium, however, Huler said he wants to be thought of as someone who inspires others and always offers to help.

“I want to leave the party one beer to the good,” he said. “I want to be known as a good husband a father—someone who when they saw wickedness tried to stop it or at least raised his voice.”

To read the article online: http://www.boomnc.com/2011/04/articles_fiftyfab_triangle_201104.html



April 1, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | Leave a comment

Achieving Balance: Medicine & The Arts

Published in the Winter 2011 Duke Med Alumni News Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

By day, they study anatomy, absorb the latest research on combating acute disease, and learn best practices for managing chronic conditions. But by night and on weekends, they play instruments, dance, sing, sculpt, and act. They are Duke University School of Medicine students—and they are artists.

Although keeping up with the rigors of medical school is their number one priority, these students unanimously agree that they cannot imagine abandoning their artistic activity. It does not matter that they cannot devote the same level of time and intensity they once did. Most consider their art an integral part of their lives—and key to handling the stress of medical education.

A study presented at a 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges regional meeting found that exposure to art can improve a doctor’s clinical skills. These artistic Duke physicians-in-training agree. For them, art and medicine go hand-in-hand.

“The best doctors are people who are balanced and find enjoyment in something other than medicine,” says Brian Schwab, MSIII. “For me, if music keeps me balanced and happy, then that will be good for my patients. Staying active with music will help me express myself better and share my professional enjoyment with patients rather than thinking only about health, drugs, and surgery.”


For Schwab, the current Davison Council president, and JenniferVogel , MS II, artistic expression comes as their fingers fly across piano or organ keyboards. Although neither considered music as a career, they both carve out time weekly to play for themselves and others.

Schwab, who self-published two improvisational albums in high school and college, cut his musical teeth the way many young students do. He picked up the clarinet in the 6th grade and played in his school band. A year later, he switched to classical piano, but soon found he had a passion for jazz and rock music. In fact, the high school rock band for which he played keyboard—Ninjas of the Kremlin—placed among the top three in a Battle of the Bands competition in his hometown of Portland, Ore.

His love of music followed him through his undergraduate career at Rice University, where he performed both as a solo artist and with a large church group. He found it impossible to escape the desire to create melodies, even while on a medical Spanish immersion trip to Mexico before his senior year. When the salsa band at his hotel took a break, he took the stage and ended up playing with the band that night.

At Duke, Schwab has continued playing church music at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Durham. He also has integrated into the medical school’s vibrant music scene. As a first-year student, he joined two bands—Sorry Charlie, a Duke-University of North Carolina at Chapel hill group, and the Duke-only Bill Roth & The Histones.

With plans to become a surgeon, Schwab says staying active in music will help him continue to improve his performance when he is a practicing physician. He also plays guitar and recently picked up the harmonica.

“I enjoy being able to express myself through music,” he says. “Continuing to play and practice will help me develop a higher level of skills.”

Like Schwab, Vogel is a pianist. But unlike him, she pursued classical music and eventually, with encouragement from her music teacher and influence from her older brother, turned her attention to the organ during her early teen-age years. A devout student of the three B’s of classical music—Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven—she admits that the organ is an unusual instrument for a young person.

“As a middle-schooler, I saw my brother play the organ, and I got jealous because it looked like it was really fun to play,” says Vogel, who currently works part-time as an organist for a Durham church. “It’s a really cool instrument, and it opened up opportunities for me to perform competitively, as well as to watch many great musicians play.”

One such experience set the trajectory of her college years. As a rising high school senior, she attended the prestigious Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado. During those eight weeks, she studied with other talented musicians and had free access to concerts given by international artists. The two months were inspiring, and they led her to major in music at Stanford University. Once there, she earned the trust of the music faculty and received a set of keys to the campus chapel to practice on the organ at her convenience.

But she bypassed a musical career in favor of one in health care. However, she says her years as a performer did prepare her well for medical school.

“The four to six hours I spent every day practicing and playing were great training for the long hours of being a medical student,” she says. “I knew I wanted to concentrate on the enriching aspects of music—the business of music is very different than simply making music that you enjoy and love.”

And, it is exactly those inspirational aspects of music that she hopes will positively impact how she practices medicine and relates to her patients. It is incumbent upon physicians to communicate health information effectively, and being well versed in expressing emotion through music will be a benefit to patient relations, she says, especially as she is considering a career in pediatrics.


The double-helix structure of DNA does not often come to mind in discussions of art. A steel sculpture now outside the Bryan Center on campus proves it can be an excellent model.

Although he usually draws pulp fiction comic art, Kwadwo “Kojo” Owusu-Akyaw, T’10, MSI, deviated from his norm to create a more than 8-foot-tall structure of DNA in the midst of the process of replication. He built the sculpture in early 2010 during the last semester of his senior year at Duke University. It was placed at the front of the student center at the request of Vice Provost for the Arts Scott Lindroth and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta.

“The structure of DNA has a very big visual appeal,” Owusu-Akyaw says, adding he only began sculpting a year ago. “I wanted to produce something that demonstrated that biology and its components can be beautiful.”

Owusu-Akyaw used conventional tools to construct the sculpture, but his long-standing artistic tool is his saxophone. He picked up the instrument as a 5th-grade student and took classical music lessons. As a high school student, he played in several All-Region Bands, as well as a classical quartet that competed at the state level.

Today, he plays in the Durham-based quartet Straight Up Jazz. He joined the group this past August, and they often perform at Broad Street Café near East Campus. The other band members might be significantly older than he is, but Owusu-Akyaw, who admires Miles Davis but emulates saxophonist Sonny Rollins, says he thoroughly enjoys being part of the group.

“With jazz music, there’s lots of room for improvisation and expressing yourself,” he says. “You can say what you want to say. Once you know the basic rules of music, you can open up a whole new world.”

Having music as a stress-relief outlet will make him a better doctor, he says, because he often finds an inner peace when he plays. Picking up his saxophone at the end of a hard day helps him process the day’s anxieties and will likely enhance his ability to help others.

For Matthew Kan, MSIII, his art—the violin he has played since age 4—has prepared him to be a strong leader. After two years of private lessons, Kan joined the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and became a concert master by the end of high school. During his tenure with the orchestra, the group performed in Mexico, Cuba, Russia, Lithuania, and Ireland. One of the concerts they performed was Peter and the Wolf, featuring narrators Danny Glover and Sharon Stone.

Working with famous actors was an incredible opportunity, he says, but it also required him to accept a level of responsibility unusual for someone his age.

“The orchestra is a very professional environment, and its pressures require more maturity than is often expected from a high school student,” says Kan, who has a clinical interest in pediatric allergy and immunology. “So, I learned leadership skills that have proven helpful as I’ve gone through the MD/PhD program, such as how to compromise and work well together, as well as how to delegate tasks.”

Kan’s love of chamber music remained with him after high school. Like Vogel, Kan, who also has an affinity for Brahms and Bach, spent two months at the Aspen Music Festival and School. In addition, he was part of the first season of Music@Menlo, an internationally acclaimed chamber music festival and institute in San Francisco, and he played with Stanford University’s Emerson Quartet.

As a Harvard University undergraduate, he played in the Harvard-Radcliffe orchestra throughout college. His musical involvement at Duke, however, has been less constant—he was unable to play during the demanding second year. Currently, he plays in the Duke Medical Orchestra, a group composed of approximately 50 Duke health care professionals, and takes private lessons from Eric Pritchard, a violinist and professor of practice in Duke University’s Department of Music.


Many physicians and artists would agree there is a clear connection between the medical study of the human body and using the entire body to produce artistic expression. Singing, dancing, and acting often require total body involvement, and several Duke medical students engage in these activities frequently.

From the moment Matthew MacCarthy, MSIII, tried out for a role in The Music Man as an 8th-grade student, he has loved musical theater. His turn as first tenor in the barbershop quartet showed him the joys of acting out stories on stage with words and song. His participation in such a physically demanding art form is unique, however, because MacCarthy lives with cerebral palsy.

Rather than join a theater group as a University of Denver undergraduate, he became involved in the Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League (PHAMALY), a community theater that provides performance opportunities for individuals living with disabilities. As a group member, MacCarthy participated in several productions, including Oklahoma!, Les Miserables, and The Wiz.

“The first time I saw a PHAMALY production in high school, I thought it was amazing because the shows were tweaked to accommodate and play off of the disabilities of people in the cast,” MacCarthy says. “It’s always been very inspiring to me to see people overcome their daily challenges. It takes guts to get on stage just for the love of art.”

MacCarthy says he participates in the annual Duke Medical Student-Faculty show, but his main artistic activity now is Duke’s oldest undergraduate a capella group, Pitchforks. Currently, the all-male group takes up the largest chunk of his time outside of academics, with roughly four hours of practice weekly.

Being involved with Pitchforks dovetails nicely with his plan to enter pediatrics, he says. Ultimately, he wants to employ music therapy, such as singing solo for children or in groups, to enhance the medical treatment they receive. MacCarthy also sings with the medical school a capella group, Major Groove, which rounds the hospital, singing for patients who want to listen. According to MacCarthy, the effects are evident.

“Music is a special tool in the art of healing,” he says. “You can physically see people’s spirits lift. When we sang Deck the Halls this past holiday season, one woman in the hospital for cancer treatment, who had been relatively nonresponsive, opened her eyes wide, sat up, and was the first one to clap when we finished.”

Cecelia Ong, MSII, also was part of that serenade. During her first year of medical school, Ong founded Major Groove, which is named for the major and minor grooves in DNA. In the beginning, the group, which is part of the Health Arts Network at Duke, was composed only of first-year medical students. Now, 16 to 18 students from all four years and the MD/PhD program participate.

During the holiday caroling, Ong had a similar experience to MacCarthy’s. In between songs, a patient spoke up about the desire to have a doctor who sings.

“He stopped us and said, ‘I want you to be my doctor. I want a doctor who can sing to bring my spirits up,’” she says.

Ong’s music career blossomed when she walked up to a piano in a store unprompted and started picking out notes unassisted—her parents took it as a sign that their daughter needed an instrument. Throughout her youth, she played for her high school theater group and took up the string bass to be part of the school orchestra.

“Piano is a solo focus, but the string bass provides the foundation for sound. You really hear the sounds of the foundations of the chords,” she says. “As a soprano singer, I’m very fond of hearing the ranges of melodies these instruments provide.”

Her vocal training began at age 8 in a Vietnamese youth choir under the leadership of a Vietnamese medical oncologist. It was an enlightening experience, not only because it introduced Ong to the intricacies of music, but also because it highlighted a Vietnamese musical culture previously unknown to her.

Since then, the voice and how it works has fascinated her. She is not ready to say she will be an otolaryngologist, but she does want to learn more about how vocal chords are used.

Perhaps the most physical form of art is dance. Stephanie Sheikh, MSII, first studied ballet, tap, and jazz as a 4-yearold, and she competed and traveled nationally in middle school. While in high school, Sheikh participated in national competitions in New York that offered opportunities to study under the current leading dancers from the American Ballet Theatre. She also continued her art as a neurosciences, behavioral biology, and dance undergraduate at Emory University.

After being accepted to study dance in New York, Sheikh deferred medical school for a year. During that time, she learned more about how the body moves naturally and what dancers should do to expand their current abilities. She now continues her training in modern dance at Ninth Street Dance in Durham. Each class is a step along the path toward her ultimate career goal and the seamless fusion of art and medicine.

“I’ve wanted to be a neurologist for a long time to work with patients living with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Sheikh says. “I also have an interest in working with patients who have movement disorders, because being unable to move is devastating.”

For Sheikh and her classmates, no matter the art form, they firmly believe including art in their lives will not only affect them today, but it will also influence them—and their patients—for years to come.

To read the story online: http://medalum.mc.duke.edu/wysiwyg/downloads/Winter2011DMAN.pdf

The story begins on pg. 11


February 8, 2011 Posted by | Education, Healthcare, Profiles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Roy Roberts – A Strong Work Ethic and a Respect for Education

Published in the February 2011 Boom! NC Magazine

by Whitney L.J. Howell

As a seven-year-old boy, Roy Roberts worked on a farm, packaging young tomato plants in newspaper to prepare them for sale. Even as a child, he recognized the bosses on the farm had the most education, and he quickly decided that learning as much as possible would be his path. The choice has served him well.

Today, Roberts is the founder and chief executive officer of Alliance of Professionals & Consultants Inc., (APC), a professional services and staffing firm in Raleigh. But that’s only his latest business venture. I was astounded as he listed his previous endeavors—creating an online dating service called Data-Mate, starting Diversified Systems Inc., retiring from IBM at the age of 48, launching a computer services company, and establishing the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of North Carolina.

He says his drive came from his mother—she was one of 13 children and was the first in her family to finish high school. Her accomplishment inspired her children, including Roberts, to graduate from college. That tradition endured, and each of Roberts’ five children now has advanced degrees.

After dedicating years to helping others improve their lots in life, Roberts says that, at 65, he’s developed a work-life philosophy that he hopes positively impacts everyone he meets.

“It’s important to see people as people. Don’t think of them as units or treat them as dollar signs,” Roberts says. “If you treat them professionally, they will become more like the professionals they need to be.”

Being an older worker actually helps him when he works with others, he says. Not only do people acknowledge his years of experience, but his seasoned demeanor also makes them feel at ease.

It came as no surprise to me, then, that this same principle guides his work with the American Indian Chamber of Commerce. It’s there that he gives Native American entrepreneurs business advice and guides them through the pot hole-laden path of launching a new project. However, he says he’s most proud of showing the majority of people who come to him that they aren’t quite ready yet to strike out on their own. Getting people to do more homework protects them from avoidable financial problems, he says.

His recent appointment to the US Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council for Minority Business Enterprises is a natural step. In this role, he will advise the federal government on the policy issues affecting minority-owned businesses.

Despite his passion for his work, Roberts gets out of the office frequently. His vocation often gives way to his favorite pastime—being in nature with his grandchildren, walking along paths in the woods.

“We have a big place with nearly 100,000 trees. In fact, we planted 20 more just a few weekends ago,” he says. “One of the things my grandchildren like to do is find the faces in the trees.”

As a Native American himself, he feels it’s important for him to know his genealogy, as well as his wife’s. Amazingly, he’s been able to map his wife’s family back to 1627 and his as far back as the early 1700s.

But while his past is an important part of who he is and the person he has become, Roberts is forward-thinking. Although he has no plans to step away from working, he has many travel plans on the horizon. The Caribbean and Mexico are popular vacation spots for his family, and he and his wife intend to visit locales they’ve never seen.

“We’re traveling more. When we were young and first married, we couldn’t afford to travel,” he says. “Now, it’s time to spend the kids’ inheritance.”

To read the story online: http://www.boomnc.com/2011/02/articles_fiftyfab_triangle_201102.html

February 1, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grant Llewellyn, “Music Was Everywhere”

Published in the December 2010 Boom! NC Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Growing up in Wales, Grant Llewellyn really had no choice but to become a music lover. From the cradle forward, he was surrounded by the piano and singing as his family and friends used melodies as a form of social and community activity.

“Music was everywhere-at school and in church. Most families had a piano in those days,” Llewellyn said, talking with me after rehearsing with the symphony orchestra at Appalachian State University in Boone. “I grew up listening to my grandmother play badly, but even then, I responded as she hammered out a melody.”

Surprisingly, the piano wasn’t the instrument on which he cut his musical teeth. Instead, he first picked up the cello. His parents recognized his innate talent when he was ten years old, and they encouraged him to audition for the Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, much like the Juilliard School in New York City, where he could study performance, composition, and conducting. He was accepted, starting his lifelong journey as a musician and conductor.

Today, Llewellyn, who turns 50 this month, speaks with the same palpable energy and enthusiasm you would expect from that 10 year old boy. He is the current music director for the North Carolina Symphony, but he often works with other acclaimed ensembles and frequently returns to Wales to be with his family. Given his hectic travel schedule, he needs every ounce of his abundant verve to maintain the pace.

That vigor has given him career longevity that has, in turn, benefited his professional and personal lives, he said. By immersing himself in multiple musical genres-whether it’s a Russian dance, a Chinese march, or a Brahms symphony-he’s learned how different voices in music interplay, much akin to being a solo actor on stage and playing all the roles.

As his ability to relate to heroes and heroines in music grew and he found it easier to translate his understanding to the general public, he also discovered the same skills could help him at home.

“I think when you’re just starting out, you’re desperately trying to juggle a young family, and there are many variables in motion at the same time,” he said. “But, as my experience as a director grew, so did my ability to navigate the kids’ activities. The wide swath of emotions presented in music also helped me negotiate my way through the wide spectrum of emotions that comes from children as they age.”

Although Llewellyn’s love of conducting is a driving force in his life, he readily admits it isn’t the only musical career he would enjoy. An extensive part of working with an orchestra deals with education as the ensemble learns to work together, and bringing that experience to students would be rewarding, as well as trying, he said.

“I take my hat off to the classroom teachers who battle to keep schoolchildren interested and engaged in music,” he said. “It’s a challenge with students, young and old, to make musical instruction fun and not sound condescending.”

Music isn’t Llewellyn’s only passion, however. When he’s not conducting in Raleigh or jetting across the country working with a myriad of prestigious orchestras, you can likely find him at his home in the countryside of South Wales. He passes his time watching his boys play rugby or playing soccer with his girls. He also devotes much of his focus to the garden adjacent to his house.

“It’s a bit like therapy. I fly around, stay in hotels, and jump from city center to center,” he said. “Then, I get to come home, pull up weeds, and get muddy.”

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , | Leave a comment

David Moore-“Redemption Song”

Published in the November 2010 Boom! NC Magazine

by Whitney L.J. Howell
November 2010

For David Moore, art really does imitate life for at least one time a year. Every December, you can find him donning 19th century garb and playing Bob Cratchit inTheater in the Park’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The play, he said, helped him navigate a very difficult, sad period and ultimately brought him the happiness the characters experience at the play’s end.

“I came to the theater when my marriage of 20 years collapsed, and I needed to find a way to take care of myself emotionally,” said Moore who celebrates his 18thperformance with the show this year. “There’s something healing, arresting, and completing about ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and I wanted to be in it.”

As I listened to Moore, 63, talk about the play’s timelessness and its apropos portrayals of universal archetypes, I found myself caught


David Moore


up in his enthusiasm not only for the show, but also for the effect it has on the cast and audience. He’s seen marriages on the brink of failure recommit, and he said one autistic child is more animated than any other time when he comes to the show dressed as Ebenezer Scrooge.

The theme of redemption can heal the past, present, and future in real-life situations, he said. In fact, being in the play gave Moore a second chance at love-he met his second wife Carol four years after joining the production.

But Moore, who enjoys landscaping, traveling, and spending time with his grandchildren, also appreciates the play because it dovetails into his professional work as a senior consultant and coach with the NC Baptist Association. When pastors and congregations reach an impasse, it’s his job to steer them through difficult conversations and hurt feelings.

“The Baptist church’s autonomy is both its strength and its Achilles Heel,” he said. “When pastors and congregants disagree, there’s no one in the church to intervene. I can give them a safe place to discuss the problems and can help get them back on the road.”


David Moore as Bob Cratchit


After serving as a consultant for 33 years, Moore said his age makes him a more effective mediator when quarrels come to him. Through his life experiences, he’s learned to consider all perspectives, remain open to all options, and to maintain focus and be “in the moment” with those who come to him for assistance.

It was easy for me to understand, then, that he hopes people will think of him as someone aware of others.

“I want someone to feel like they’re the only one that matters to me at the point when I’m with them,” he said. “I want them to know that I’m present with them.”

As he looks toward retirement, Moore said he hopes to take that same focus from his professional life and transfer it to whatever he chooses to do with the newfound free time. In fact, rather than reaching retirement, he intends to redefine or reinvent himself as he moves from the NC Baptist Association into his next “big adventure.”

No matter what he chooses to do in the next phase of his life, Moore was emphatic about one thing in particular.

“If I can do the role of Bob Cratchit with a walker or a wheelchair, I’ll do it,” he said. “I have no illusions that I’ll age out of the role, but it’s part of who I am. I will, at least, participate in the play at some level because of what it’s done for me and what it will do for others to come.”

“A Christmas Carol” opens at the Durham Performing Arts Center December 3-5, and then moves to Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts December 8-15. For information visit theatreinthepark.com or call 919.8321.6939.

To read the article online: http://www.boomnc.com/2010/11/articles_fiftyfab_triangle_201011.html

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , | Leave a comment

Betty McKim ~ Wearable Art

Published in the October 2010 Boom! Magazine

by Whitney L.J. Howell

As a child, Betty McKim enjoyed making crafts with her hands. It was a passion she carried with her to Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C., but she didn’t have a specific focus until a professor said she reminded him of a jewelry maker. His suggestion launched her career.

“I was greatly influenced by my professor,” McKim said. “I went on to East Carolina University for a master’s in fine arts, took my first class in jewelry making, and have never looked back.”

McKim, who surprised me by revealing that she doesn’t wear much jewelry herself, said she enjoys the problem-solving aspects of jewelry making. It’s the attention to details and the intricacies of the tools used to make jewelry that have kept her attention for 35 years.

The repeating shapes and textures found in nature are her biggest inspiration, she said. The result is jewelry that can be playful, restrained, indulgent, or sensuous. McKim, 56, predominantly uses silver, but she occasionally accents pieces with gold or gemstones, giving each item a unique flair. Understandably, she hopes that the jewelry will be worn for many years.

The jewelry frequently reflects McKim’s mental state or what she sees around her at any given time. The memory of using a sprig of rosemary from her dinner plate as a springboard for a popular earring design makes her chuckle.

“When you look at my work, you see where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing,” she said. “The jewelry is all about the relationships in my life, and hopefully, the person buying it can relate to it as well.”

Each year, McKim exhibits her jewelry at three or four crafts fairs. She will participate in the Carolina Designer Craftsmen show in Raleigh November 26-28 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Exposition Center. Throughout the year, she also shows her jewelry at Art in the Park in Blowing Rock, as well as in Raleigh’s Boylan Heights Art Walk and the Larkspur Garden Show.

In addition to producing jewelry for sale, McKim also teaches others to design and create their own artworks. Shortly after completing her master’s degree, she taught pre-teen children at Buck’s Rock Camp in Connecticut. For the past 15 years, however, she has worked full time at the Pullen Arts Center in Raleigh. Today, she is the center’s assistant director, and she teaches both beginning and advanced adult students.

“I thoroughly enjoy what I do,” she said. “When it comes to teaching, I want to entertain and excite people with what’s possible in making jewelry. These classes are an environment where people can share a sincere interest in making something beautiful.”

But creating jewelry isn’t for everyone, she said. I found it interesting that she can usually tell within a few classes which students have the mentality to make jewelry. The process requires a great amount of patience and heavy concentration. Anyone interested in making jewelry shouldn’t expect instant gratification, she said-learning to use the right tools takes extensive practice, and the necessary detail work is very intricate. It is an excellent endeavor for someone who enjoys solo projects, she added, because “few people will sit and watch you create a piece of jewelry.”

For McKim, working alone is the perfect method. It allows her to make each piece an individual time investment-a project designed for one, specific, unknown person.

“I often think about how someone has each piece of jewelry I’ve made. Running into someone who’s wearing one of my creations completes the process for me,” she said. “It’s worth the time investment to specialize each piece and create something that is meaningful.”

To read the article online: http://www.boomnc.com/2010/10/articles_fiftyfab_triangle_201010.html

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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