Casey McDaniel, LPC, ATR-BC (MS '17)Casey smiling for a photo

 Nurturing healing through art and psychotherapy

Casey McDaniel, LPC, ATR-BC (MS ’17) has been passionate about art since she was a kid experimenting with different materials.

 “I just loved making and creating,” McDaniel says. “I remember I made a dollhouse out of computer paper.”

 Her enduring love of art, combined with a fascination with psychology, shaped a career path in which she guides others toward self-discovery and healing. McDaniel is a psychotherapist and a board-certified art therapist. She also is pursuing certification as an eating disorder specialist.

 Growing up in Norwood, a small town near Boston, Casey was an honors student and captain of the gymnastics and volleyball teams. In high school, an introduction to psychology class sparked her interest in the subject and understanding how people think. Personal experiences with therapy during her adolescence also played a pivotal role in her career choice. She wanted to be able to provide to others the kind of support she needed back then.

After double majoring in psychology and studio art at the University of Vermont, McDaniel spent some time working at a domestic violence shelter as well as mentoring a girl at a youth center.

She then pursued her master’s in art therapy and counseling at EVMS. She appreciated EVMS’ clinical approach and described her experience as “a whirlwind” – an intensive, immersive period that shaped her into a well-rounded clinician. Faculty were incredibly supportive, she said, and the small class size led to close-knit relationships.

Upon graduating from EVMS in 2017, McDaniel went into community health, providing direct care and supervision in intensive in-home and mental health skill-building services, in addition to providing outpatient therapy.

In 2020, she joined the team at Peninsula Child and Family Services. She specializes in outpatient therapy, primarily with children and teenagers dealing with eating disorders.

“It’s just really wonderful to see the spark come back for people as they start to see themselves for how amazing and awesome and cool they actually are,” she says. “It’s such a privilege to be part of that journey with them.”

Her approach is a combination of verbal therapy and art therapy. The latter isn’t as much about developing art skills as it is about clients’ “authentic expression and their engagement in the process,” she said. McDaniel noted that process and materials instruction from Matthew G. Bernier, MCAT, ATR-BC, Associate Professor in EVMS’ Art Therapy and Counseling, MS program, was especially helpful. Students learned about different materials available for art making, from pencils to found materials to paint, and their applications.

The art therapy program also helped McDaniel foster her own artistic identity. “It’s not just that we have people use these tools. I also use them for myself to do some art-making,” she says in an interview from her office, where a chalk wall serves as a canvas for her own creative expressions. She also enjoys collage and working with acrylic paints.

McDaniel has remained involved with the art therapy program, participating in trainings and making presentations.

Despite her busy work schedule and personal life — she just got married in October — McDaniel accepted the opportunity to serve on the EVMS Alumni Advisory Board. . She recognizes the importance of staying connected with the EVMS community, sharing knowledge, and contributing to the education of future professionals.

Learn more about the Art Therapy and Counseling Program at EVMS here. 



Kelly W. Brown, MPH (MPH '06), MBAAlumnus, Kelly W. Brown poses with her husband and two daughters on a nature trail

 Kelly W. Brown, MPH (MPH ’06), MBA realized while pursuing a finance degree at Virginia Tech that she did not want to become a stockbroker, banker or work in the field in a traditional sense.

Through friends and family, she learned about the non-clinical programs at Eastern Virginia Medical School that were more business oriented. The Portsmouth native toured EVMS and fell in love with its community feel.

“I decided I would rather put my financial and business skills, and time and passion, into something more meaningful: the public health of the community that I wanted to come back and live in,” Brown says.

So, after completing her bachelor’s degree at Virginia Tech, Brown went on to earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) from EVMS.

She has spent most of her career working with Amerigroup (later named Anthem/Elevance through acquisitions) and currently serves as the Staff Vice President for Business Improvement within Provider/Clinical Operations and Performance Analytics.  

As a student at EVMS, Brown was good with data but not so adept on the biology side of health. Through practicum programs focusing on research and patient observations, she was exposed to the clinical side of healthcare, which brought the ‘math’ to life. 

Brown enjoyed volunteering at The Strelitz Diabetes Center, getting to work with Aaron Vinik, MD, PhD, who then was director of research at the center. “It was here that I first learned to not isolate diabetes as a singular disease, but all of the impacts it has on the quality of one’s life,” Brown says. “This also shaped a strong perspective on preventative care and maintenance. And that’s the type of experience they would give you, right there in the community with your neighbors.”

She also worked at the C3ID Infectious disease/HIV clinic that EVMS staffed in Nassawadox, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. She documented patients’ conditions and their social determinants of health. Most patients were migrant workers with a panel of comorbidities — both behavioral and physical. This is where she also learned that ‘whole health’ matters.

These personal, community-based experiences are a big part of what makes EVMS exceptional, Brown says. “They give you national exposure to academics, but is hyper-focused on learning within our local communities,” she said. “That’s what sets the student experience apart from other institutions.”

Brown has remained very involved as an alumna. She joined the EVMS Alumni Board in 2009 and served as chair from 2016-2022. Recently, she participated in a networking event for the American Medical Women's Association Student Chapter at EVMS and Alumni Relations. This speed networking event provided a space where current female identifying medical students could connect with alumni and ask career and personal questions on a variety of topics. Her advice? “Have fun, get grounded in work-life balance, and learn the business side of healthcare…its complex!”

To fine-tune her business skills, Brown attended Old Dominion University, earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2012. That put her in the position of being an alumna of two schools that are working toward integration to create a new health sciences center in Hampton Roads.

“Both schools bring so many core competencies to the table that are academic, social, cultural, and with community-based benefits,” Brown says.

The merger provides pathways to more advanced and specialized clinical education that “create the runway to build some really creative integrative programs based on the student population,” she says.

For example, a student studying nursing at ODU might decide to go on to earn an MD at EVMS — and if they want to be an administrator, they can pursue an MPH as well. And ODU’s robust athletic program will provide EVMS students interested in sports medicine an opportunity to study athletes up close, assist with care and conduct research.

Plus, she adds, “now that ODU has a football team, how cool will it be for EVMS students to attend games as well and be part of that family?”

Brown encourages students, teachers and alumni of both schools, as well as members of the community, to rally behind everyone who is making the integration happen.

“Be open with ideas, be willing to volunteer your time,” she says. “Great things are never done by one person — they’re done by a team! We are so lucky to have these special institutions in our backyard that do so much for our communities, and even more so in the future collaboration.”



Rolando DeLeon, MD (MD ’82), FACOG

Doctor DeLeon holding newborn twins

When Rolando DeLeon, MD (MD ’82), came back to the EVMS campus for his 40th Class reunion, his love and enthusiasm for his alma mater was tangible. It became quickly evident that Dr. DeLeon was a perfect keynote for the upcoming 2023 White Coat Ceremony, taking place on Friday, August 18 this summer.

Dr. DeLeon was born in Cuba to parents who migrated to Miami then Northern Virginia during the Castro regime, and he lived in Puerto Rico with his grandparents until he was about 8 years old. But “if you ask me where’s home, home is Virginia,” where he was educated, says Dr. DeLeon, a Miami-based obstetrician-gynecologist who helped found Florida’s largest multi-specialty private practice group.

Once his parents settled in Northern Virginia, Dr. DeLeon joined them. After high school, he studied biology and biochemistry at Virginia Tech before going to Eastern Virginia Medical School for what was then a three-year program.

“It was a really magical place” where the faculty made him believe in what he could do, and in his potential as a physician. Dr. DeLeon says, “All of us who were there, created bonds that were so tight, because it was such a magical experience.” The Class of 1982 was overwhelmingly the most represented at last year’s Alumni Weekend

He would add, “I think I can speak safely for my classmates in saying …that they would tell you those were the three best years of their professional lives, bar none.”

Dr. DeLeon fondly recalls twice-yearly retreats with faculty and students, in Staunton and in Nags Head, North Carolina. There also were well-attended joyful POETS gatherings every other Friday that would begin at the then-new Lewis Hall and continue at nearby establishments.

His love for teaching during his residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital led him to remain on faculty at UM/JMH for a few years, before going into private practice.

During that time, he met a brilliant young OBGYN resident. Dr. DeLeon has followed with special interest the career of that intern, Dr. Alfred Abuhamad, now President, Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine at EVMS.

Last April, when Dr. DeLeon and his wife were on the Outer Banks, he texted Dr. Abuhamad to say he would be in Norfolk the next day and ask if he could stop by briefly. The very next morning, the two men ended up spending an hour together catching up on old friends and reminiscing about their time at “the Jack.” Such are the ties we create in medicine.

“It speaks to the bonds you can have with people whose lives you touch at a critical point in their development as physicians” says Dr. DeLeon, who returned to Norfolk in October for his class reunion during Alumni Weekend.

When reflecting on his career, Dr. DeLeon doesn’t know what sparked his interest in medicine. There were no physicians in his family, nor did he have any role models in healthcare. But by the eighth grade, he knew he wanted to become an obstetrician. He remembers joking with friends that he would be delivering their wives’ babies.

“What made it hard was that I was not so great a student,” says Dr. DeLeon, who improved his grades enough to get into Tech, where he walked on to the football team. He injured his knee and stopped playing at the end of his freshman year, which he says was fortunate because he turned his focus on raising his “abysmal” grade-point average.

He was put on a waitlist when he first applied to EVMS as a college senior, spent a “gap year” working for a couple doctors and then got accepted to the medical school.

“I am somebody who had no business getting into the college I got into, much less the medical school I got into,” says Dr. DeLeon. “To me that was a gift. It was a gift that I did not come to realize until many years later. It was a gift that had been given to me so that I could live my life paying back the privilege of being a physician, in what I did, in how I practiced medicine, in the babies I delivered, and now in passing on my love for medicine to the next generation. I was undeservedly blessed.” 

That’s why it’s important, Dr. DeLeon says, for him to stay involved with EVMS as an alumnus. He is a regular donor to the school, who currently serves as an OBGYN Residency Mock Interviewer for our fourth-year students.   As a member of his class, he is involved with a memorial foundation that his classmate, Dr. Gordon Iiams set up to honor David Brown, MD, a 1982 EVMS graduate who was one of the seven astronauts killed in the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

“I got to live out my dream of being a doctor,” Dr. DeLeon says. “I got to attend the best medical school in the world and to develop colleagues and friends who are lifelong brothers and sisters to me. I truly hope to have enough time to pay it all back.”

"It is a privilege, both personally and professionally, to welcome Dr. DeLeon back to EVMS for such a pivotal moment in the lives of our young medical students," says Dr. Abuhamad. "His passion for medicine is contagious as is his commitment to teaching medical students and residents. His life has been about serving others. I believe his story will inspire our students for years to come."

DeLeon is currently at the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale Florida where he has served as the Founding Chair of the Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology from 2020. He remains the only faculty member to teach students in each year of medical school. He recently made the local/national news in March, closing out his clinical obstetrical career when delivering the baby of the first baby he ever delivered 34 years prior, at the same hospital. You can read more about that career shaping moment in the Miami Herald.


Wesley L. Mitchell, MSA (MS '08, MSA '14)

Wesley Mitchell Jr., MSA, CSA, became interested in healthcare by way of church and family.Alumni Wesley Mitchell in suit professional photo

 Mitchell’s father was a minister, and after church on Sundays in rural Coosa County, Alabama, the family would visit people in the hospital, nursing homes or their houses to sit and pray with them.

 “That put me in the healthcare space, of taking care of others and your community,” says Mitchell, a certified surgical assistant. He owns Highland Surgical, a boutique surgical assistant firm in Atlanta, where he specializes in general surgery, bariatric surgery and robotic surgery.

 Mitchell had a grandfather who worked as an orderly at a hospital. “That was my earliest memory of someone being in a medical field,” Mitchell says.

 Mitchell studied biology at Tuskegee University. Initially he considered going into research, but then he realized he was more geared to a profession in medicine, by the patient’s bedside.

 After college, he was introduced to surgery when he worked for six months at the Alabama Organ Center, harvesting bones and organs. A physician assistant at the center suggested he look into Eastern Virginia Medical School.

 “I applied, and the next thing I knew, I was moving to Virginia,” after living in Alabama all his life.

 Mitchell attended EVMS from 2006 to 2008, earning a surgical assistant certificate. He then moved to Atlanta to work for a small company for several years before he started Highland Surgical in 2012. In 2013, he obtained a master’s degree in surgical assisting from EVMS through the master’s bridge program.

“EVMS really laid down the foundation for me to soar,” Mitchell says.

Mitchell says he loved the camaraderie he found among students in all of the programs at EVMS. “If you had a question, you could ask your peers,” he says. “No matter what program they were in, everybody was willing to help you find the answer.”

He also fondly recalls anatomy class taught by Paul Aravich, PhD. But perhaps the memory of EVMS that sticks out the most in his mind was a 26-hour trauma rotation that started at 5 a.m. on a Friday at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

Mitchell recalled being paired with an attending surgeon and going to every trauma call that came in. The pace didn’t slow down until sometime after midnight. At 3 a.m. the next day, Saturday, Mitchell managed to get a little rest. At 5 a.m., all of the attendings and residents were up, seeing patients and getting ready for the next attending who would be on call.

That day, it was Chair of Surgery L.D. Britt, MD, MPH, “which was extremely exciting for me and very nerve-wracking for me. At that time, I had only seen Dr. Britt in passing,” Mitchell recalls.

“Dr. Britt shows up. We all start rounding together. And I’m not the most important person there at all. I’m just kind of in the background, soaking up all this experience and all this knowledge. I’m taking it all in.”

At one point, Dr. Britt — now EVMS’ Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs, the Edward J. Brickhouse Chair in Surgery and the Henry Ford Professor of Surgery — asked a couple residents to describe the process for pronouncing a patient to be brain dead. They answered.

“Then, he called on me,” Mitchell says. “My eyes were so big with shock and surprise that he realized I was there. He’s been all over the world, speaking and giving his time and his knowledge and me, I’m a little kid from Alabama.”

Today, as a Community Faculty member, Mitchell, helps out when EVMS students come to Atlanta yearly for training in robotic surgery. He also returns to EVMS every year to help students prepare to start clinical rotation.

“I always tell them: Your time here at EVMS is going to lay the foundation for you to enter the workforce. You should feel so confident when leaving EVMS that all you have to do now is put building blocks on top of what EVMS has laid for you.”

Mitchell went to a high school where Black students like himself made up about 40 percent of the population. Then, he was surrounded by Black students at Tuskegee, an HBCU. At EVMS, Mitchell was the only Black male student in his class. “Not many Black students decide to go into medicine,” Mitchell says.

 He offers this advice to Black students attending EVMS today: “Sometimes you’ll be one of a few, but always put your best foot forward. Know what’s inside of you, and keep reaching for stars.”