Legacy Of Scholars | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Patricia Earnhardt Tyndall.

Current and past Brody Scholars gathered to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Brody Scholars program. (ECU photos by Rhett Butler)

    If not for the Brody Scholars Program Brandon Garcia, Grant O'Brien and Kayla Mayes may have become a leading magician, math teacher and real estate developer. Instead, all three graduated May 5 from the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine and joined the ranks of Brody Scholar alumni.

    Prior to their commencement celebrations, the graduates expressed their gratitude for the Brody family at a 40th anniversary celebration honoring the family's legacy of commitment. Brody Scholar alumni and ECU faculty and staff took the opportunity to say thank you and saluted the Brody family for their impact and the impact of the scholars program.

    Through 40 years of tending, the Brody Scholars family tree has flourished, producing 157 scholars and fellows. Its roots remain deep in North Carolina, with 86 of the 137 active physicians practicing in the state.

    Michael Waldrum, dean of the Brody School of Medicine and president of the Brody Foundation, said the Brody family's creation and support of the Brody Scholars program is building an incredible legacy in eastern North Carolina. Waldrum said the scholars inspire him to live the right values as he works to advance the medical school's mission and build it into the model organization eastern North Carolina needs. He said the Brody Scholars program is the premier representation of the school.

    "The Brody Scholars Program has a 40-year history of supporting some of the best and brightest minds from across the state," said Waldrum, who also serves as the chief executive officer of ECU Health.

    "The shared mission between Brody and ECU Health necessitates us to invest in our students and support them on their journey to becoming physicians. The knowledge, experience and skills medical students learn here at Brody will undoubtedly benefit patients for generations to come. I could not be more honored to be a part of such an important initiative like the Brody Scholars program and I am continually inspired by these scholars' commitment to serving others."


    Garcia, from Browns Summit, had big dreams growing up. He was sure he would be a multisport professional athlete, and then it was a comedic magician or maybe even a competitive eater.

    "None of that compares at all to what I was called to do, and that is to become a family medicine physician," Garcia said. "I am super thankful to the Brody School of Medicine and to the Brody family and foundation for this opportunity."

    Garcia said being a Brody Scholar propelled him to be a leader and learn with peers who pushed him to be the best he could be. He will take all he has learned to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he will be in the family medicine residency program.

    "Going out there into the community is what a physician is supposed to do," he said. "I'm so proud to be called a Brody Scholar and to be able to pursue my dreams of helping underserved communities, especially the Hispanic community, and hopefully help them overcome the barriers they face every day."

    "You made a boy who really didn't think he could be anything into someone who could dream big and follow his dreams and accomplish them," Garcia said.


    Growing up, Mayes, of Winston-Salem, did not see physicians who looked like her. She never thought it was possible for her to become a physician even though she said she would do so. Despite her potential and passion for science, she always considered alternative careers.

    "When I was young, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn't quite know how. I could be a doctor, but maybe I'll be a cosmetologist. I want to be a doctor, but maybe I'll be a construction worker like my dad. I am going to be a doctor, but maybe I'll do real estate as well," Mayes said.

    "I stand before you today, graduating tomorrow and I will be a doctor, and that's so amazing to me," she said.

    Mayes is headed to Yale-New Haven Hospital to train in orthopedic surgery. She is one of 29 Black women who matched into orthopedics this year among 1,425 applicants. Although Mayes is entering a specialized field, she recognizes the care she will be able to provide because she attended the Brody School of Medicine.


    "I, too, am part of the legacy that you have created," Mayes said. "I am humbly and proudly on the right path in life to do the things I set out to do. I want to thank the Brody family for the opportunity they've given to me. The investment in my future has paid off tenfold already."


    "I'm so grateful and proud to be graduating from the Brody School of Medicine and joining the ranks of the Brody Scholar alumni," O'Brien said.

    O'Brien, of Concord, will follow two Brody alumni to Pittsburgh and the St. Margaret Family Medicine Residency Program. O'Brien said the Brody legacy was most evident in getting to learn from graduates of the institution during his family medicine clerkship.

    "No matter where I went there were Brody graduates who were brilliant clinicians, dedicated educators and humble leaders who went out of their way to encourage me to become the best of whatever kind of physician I wanted to be while showing me in their actions that family medicine was the path that would bring me the most meaning and purpose."

    O'Brien said the Brody scholarship gave him the freedom to choose a specialty without medical school debt.

    "It's such a massive gift. It gave me wonderful enrichment experiences, made me a more well-rounded human, gave me awesome friends and mentors and classmates who inspired me every day," O'Brien said. "I'd do it all again in a heartbeat."

    Choosing Brody

    The Brody Scholars program changed the Brody School of Medicine from a backup option to the best option for Richard A. Bloomfield Jr. '08. The internal medicine-pediatrics physician has worked as the clinical and health informatics lead at Apple for more than six years.

    "It is humbling to be here among all of you," Bloomfield said. "I had a chance to catch up with Dr. Jim Peden and Dr. Julius Mallette, and it just reminded me why I love this place."

    Bloomfield was overwhelmed with emotion sharing his reflections on the kind, wise and good people he encountered at Brody.

    Without the Brody Scholars program, he said he wouldn't have realized that Brody was precisely where he should be.

    "The trajectory of my career was unquestionably influenced by my time here at the Brody School of Medicine as a Brody Scholar," he said. "It is no exaggeration to say that if I had not chosen to go to med school here, I would not be doing what I am doing today. I can honestly say, if I were to do it all over again, I would not change a thing."

    Bloomfield completed his internal medicine and pediatrics residency at the University of North Carolina, went to work at Duke as a med-peds hospitalist and the director of mobile technology strategy, and then moved to California to work with Apple.


    As a physician focused on technology, Bloomfield closed his remarks with the help of artificial intelligence. He recited a poem he created with ChatGTP, "Brody Scholars' Journey: A Legacy of Healing and Hope."

    "So, thank you dear Brody family for all that you've done, to establish a legacy that's second to none," Bloomfield said ending the poem. "So, you probably didn't have an AI-generated poem making a grown man cry on your bingo card tonight. Imagine what it can do for health care.

    "The Brody family has exemplified taking action to support their community and for that we are eternally grateful."

    A family legacy

    Herb Garrison, former president of the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation and outgoing executive director of the Brody Foundation, led a toast for the Brodys on behalf of the school.

    "Here's to 40 years of Brody Scholars and the generosity that allowed them to soar," Garrison said. "May we all be blessed to have the Brody Scholars program for 40 years more. Cheers to us all."

    Hyman Brody, who now represents the Brody Foundation with his cousin David, attended his first Brody Scholars dinner at his father's urging. He said he had missed only one year since.

    "This never gets old. The scholars are always so impressive," Brody said. "You don't think they will top the bar and doggone if you don't do it every year. Hats off to you and congratulations."

    Brody said the common denominator is the group of people who selflessly teach, love and care for these students and teach them how to be better doctors.

    Brody recalled hearing his family talking in 1974 about Leo Jenkins' efforts to open a medical school at East Carolina. Jenkins spoke with Brody's father, Morris, about the critical need for support and seed money to start the project. Morris Brody took Jenkins to meet with Leo and Sammy Brody, Hyman's uncles.

    "My uncles bet on people, and they bet on Dr. Jenkins," Brody said. "They helped because they thought one thing the area needed was better health care."


    Brody told the scholars that the world needs a good story and it needs hope. He said they are part of that good story. He encouraged the new doctors to take what they've learned, lead with integrity, give quality service, participate in their communities and keep their commitment to make things better.

    "We're honored to be part of your journey and your success and to have played a small role in that," Brody said. "We know you will continue to make us proud."
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