Opening the Doors of Opportunity
by Rachel Adams
4th year medical student
2nd year recipient of the Howard-Avery Loyalty Fund Scholarship
I have had the privilege of being the recipient of the Howard/Avery Scholarship over the last two years, and let me tell you, it has been a wonderful experience. Often times we as students get into the habit of receiving scholarships and never meeting the donors. From my recent experience, I see how much of a disadvantage that can be. We miss out on opportunities to meet AMAZING people, hear their amazing stories and have the chance for them to pour their knowledge and wisdom into our lives. I can truly say I have taken full advantage of meeting my donor, Dr. Katrina Avery, and let me tell you, she is a sharp, fierce, involved and caring woman who challenges and pushes everyone around her to always be their best.
Dr. Avery finished UNC as an undergrad in the class of 1982 and finished medical school at Carolina in ‘91. She went on to complete her residency in OB/GYN at the Medical College of Georgia and returned to Durham in 1996 to work with Harris & Smith OB/GYN, where she has been for the last 17 years.
Dr. Avery remains extremely involved in medical education and administration; she recently started a three year term on the Medical Foundation Board, which started this past November. She is currently serving as a clinical assistant professor of OB/GYN at Duke. A few other previous positions include serving as assistant residency director for 4 years at Durham Regional and completing a term on the UNC Board of Visitors.
Now, every great woman requires an equally great man, and Mr. Avery is just that! Aside from his great sense of humor, he has served in multiple capacities as well. He has been with IBM for 24 years and has completed two terms on the Board of Visitors, is a current board member for the Fed Ex Global Center, Supervisory Board of the Carolina Club and is a board member and former chair of the Sonja Haynes Stone Multicultural Center. They have shared 25 wonderful years of marriage and have a funny, brilliant, 15-year-old son, Jonathan, whom they are grooming for UNC. So no worries, you will get more of the Avery legacy!
The Avery’s truly understand and live by “to whom much is given, much is required.” They are very active in their community and have made community service a life goal. They established this scholarship in 2005 because of their love for and their families’ dedication to education. Their commitment to medicine and learning is evident in many aspects of their lives and the very morals and values that they live by. One of Dr. Avery’s favorite quotes is, “Every charitable act is a stepping stone towards heaven” (Henry Ward Beecher).
I truly believe that the pairing of the Avery family and myself is a match made in heaven, because we share the same values of community involvement, service and an emphasis on education. This scholarship has allowed me not to focus on my finances, but to increase my presence and visibility in the surrounding community. Through Dr. Avery, I have seen the expectation of me as a future physician. To not just think my work stops when I leave the hospital or my clinic, but to mentor and be available to those that need me in different settings anddifferent capacities.
This scholarship has allowed me to work at the soup kitchen initially once a month, which then turned into once a week. It allowed me to serve as Student National Medical Association president , also known as SNMA, where I turned my focus to increasing the diversity amongst the organization and ensuring all of us were involved in community service projects once a month. I, like Dr. Avery, was able to be a role model to young girls in the community through SNMA, which has always been one of my life focuses. I have always believed it is my duty and my responsibility to give back in every way imaginable to every person possible.
My relationship with Dr. Avery not only helped me grow as a future clinician, but she made sure I stayed balanced in all aspects of my life. She would text me about how things were going and to make sure everything was alright. She and Mr. Avery even invited me to the homecoming football game, where we had a blast; I thoroughly enjoyed the food, like I always do, but I enjoyed the company even more. I also had the opportunity to meet her family when I attended her son Jonathan’s final presentation at HPREP, one of the programs UNC SNMA puts together for high school students interested in science and the health professions. I felt like I had a family away from home that supported me and was there if I needed anything at all. This past year, Dr. Avery wore yet another one of her many hats and provided me with advice about rotations she thought I would enjoy and help me in some way in my career in OB/GYN. I have truly been blessed to meet such a great person with such a big heart for all those around her.
My time at UNC has been filled with growth and exploration. The thing I have enjoyed most about UNC is the ability to do and be involved in almost anything. The sky is the limit. The administration here listens to the students and allows them to have a powerful voice, and because of this I have been able to take part in the LCME (Liaison Committee on Medical Education) site visit, the student search committee for the dean of special programs and serve in a number of other positions that gave a voice to the student body. You all are supporting a fine institution, one that I am very happy to have called home for the last four years. There is no other place this warm, welcoming and supportive of their students; and your contributions and continued commitment has made it that way.
To further speak to how great it is to be a part of the UNC family, I had the opportunity to participate in the Thank-A-Thon calls to thank donors for their contributions. I remember being on a call with a pediatrician from California, and she asked me if I had plans on applying for residency out west. She told me if I needed a place to stay to look her up. It let me know how wide our network extends and how much support we have not only while in school, but after we finish and leave these magnificent halls of UNC.
In closing, I want to challenge each of you, get to know the students, and students to get to know your donors. My hope is that the donors tell the recipients of their experiences and their paths to where they are now so the students may pick up their torches and continue to fight the good fight. Fellow students, we have a unique opportunity in front of us to pick the brains of some of the most intelligent, influential people we will ever meet, and I say seize this opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.
I want to thank you and encourage you to continue giving your gifts because we are grateful and we appreciate and understand the impact your gifts have not only currently, but extending into future medical generations. The great thing about giving is it perpetuates a cycle. Your gifts today impact my classmates and me, who then give to the future medical students, and before we all know it, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
I will forever carry this experience with me for the people I have met, the stories I have heard and for the things this scholarship has allowed me to do. I believe First Lady Michelle Obama said it best: “When you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity...you do not slam it shut behind you....You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.” Dr. Avery and her family have not only opened the door of opportunity for me but have graciously extended their hands and guided me through, and for that I am grateful. Thank you again Dr. Avery and the Loyalty Fund committee for all that you have done for me. Thank you.