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.”

Linwood Joyner II, MD (MD ’17)

As a physician, Linwood Joyner II, MD (MD ’17) enjoys being “the gatekeeper” — the provider who sees patients first to get the full picture of their health, then refers them to the heart doctor, dermatologist or other specialist if needed. Joyner is a family physician at Southeastern Virginia Health System’s Chesapeake Community Health Center. He cares for patients ages 13 and older who are part of a rural, underserved population that is largely Hispanic.Dr. Linwood Joyner White Coat

 Joyner completed the Portsmouth Family Medicine Residency at Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2020 and remains very involved with the school. He has been on the Alumni Board for a few years. He also reviews applications for an alumni scholarship, and he participates in mock interviews to help fourth-year students prepare to interview for residencies.

 He also is a youth and young adult ministry leader at New First Baptist Church (Taylorsville) in Portsmouth, the city where he was raised by his grandparents.

Growing up, he often accompanied his aunt, Glenda Branch, a nurse practitioner, on her rounds or when she would do activities at nursing homes for the holidays. His interest in medicine was piqued further by visits to the anatomy lab at Norfolk State University while he was a student at I.C. Norcom High School, a math and science magnet school.

 Joyner earned a full scholarship to North Carolina State University. He graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s of science degree with a human biology concentration and a minor in psychology.

 As an undergraduate, he was awarded the National Health Service Corps scholarship, which helped pay for his medical school loans in return for a commitment to provide health services in an area with a shortage of providers.

 Joyner chose to attend EVMS in part because he wanted to come back home. The school’s community focus also appealed to him, he says, noting that the founding of EVMS “was driven by addressing a need in the community and giving back.”

 He fondly remembers Allison Knight, PhD, now Assistant Vice Dean of Student Affairs, for “her genuine care and her love of and advocacy for the students.” Joyner remains in touch with Knight. One year, Knight invited Joyner to campus for Match Day to surprise a friend attending EVMS.

 During his residency, Joyner was inspired by Stanley Brittman, MD, Associate Professor of Family Medicine.

 “He is that ideal kind of family doctor. He has so much knowledge,” Joyner says of Brittman. “He can elicit so much from the physical exam. He was the good example of that well-rounded, well-educated family doctor.”

 Joyner advises current Black students at EVMS to explore Diversity and Inclusion resources and programs at the school and to get involved with groups such as the Student National Medical Association, which aims to support underrepresented minority medical students.

 “It can be overwhelming when you’re surrounded by the makeup of your class and there’s very few that look like you,” he says. “That can cause anxiety. You have to know your worth but then also still create your own path.”

Patricia King, MD (Psychiatry Residency ’93) 

Patricia King, MD (Psychiatry Residency ’93) knew from the age of 5 or 6 that she wanted to go into medicine, just like her father. John King, MD, was a surgeon who practiced in downtown Norfolk, not far from the Eastern Virginia Medical School campus.Patricia King faces the camera

“I just remember admiring him, every day putting on his white coat and going to take care of people,” Patricia King says of her father, who passed away in 2013 at 89. 

“I did learn a lot from him about taking care of people and about giving back and serving the community, and just how important it is in your life to return to the community what it’s given you.”

Dr. King, an adolescent and adult psychiatrist, has been in private practice in Chesapeake for the last 30 years. She is a member of the EVMS Board of Trustees and several years ago started a nonprofit, Hearts 4 Progress, that raises scholarship funds for minority students at EVMS.

 “Deep in my spirit, I love EVMS,” King says. “Always have and always will. As long as I’m able to work for EVMS, I’m going to do everything in my power to help it grow and help students get the kinds of education that they need to be good physicians in their communities.”

 King attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., as an undergraduate, just as her father had done. For a while, she taught math and science to seventh and eighth graders in Norfolk. “But my goal was always to go to medical school,” she says.

 She graduated from Meharry Medical College School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, then returned to her Norfolk roots to do her residency at EVMS from 1989 to 1993. “It made me the clinician I am today,” King says of her experience at EVMS. “It shaped me to be compassionate and thoughtful and understanding, and to not judge people, because every patient has a story. The values and principles that I learned by observing my mentors at EVMS were completely invaluable. I don’t think I could have had that anywhere else. I’m forever thankful.”

King says EVMS has had a special place in her heart for much of her life. She recalled her father talking with some of his doctor friends in the ’60s about the need for a medical school in Norfolk; EVMS opened in 1973. “I remembered the conversations about how important it was for Norfolk to have a medical school and have services for our community,” she says. “So, it (EVMS) was always a special place for me.”

In her third year of medical school, she had her first child, and “EVMS welcomed me to do my year of medical school there. I just felt so blessed to be able to come home during that time. Once again, it made EVMS a little bit more special to me.” King says she benefitted from having excellent instructors at EVMS who were kind, passionate about medicine and highly invested in their students.

Her fondest memory of her time at EVMS involves her godfather, James Willie, MD. Willie, who died in 2019, was the first board-certified Black OB/GYN physician in the region and an original member of the EVMS faculty. He helped integrate local hospitals and was a respected civic leader and mentor to generations of physicians.

“I had the pleasure of doing my OB rotation under him at Norfolk Community Hospital,” King says. “That was one of the highlights. We were able to deliver a lot of babies and provide care to a lot of women.”

To Black students today, King has some advice: “Don’t give up on your dreams. Always be passionate about what you do. And always remember that service is a requirement. It’s not negotiable. [While you’re in school], learn everything you can learn. Take advantage of the opportunities that are present.”