UNCP students gain insight from Wake Forest University School of Medicine visit

UNCP students engaged with Wake Forest University School of Medicine faculty during a campus visit on March 12, 2024

Vanna Locklear plans to apply to several medical schools after completing her studies at UNC Pembroke—but only one tops her list. Wake Forest University School of Medicine. 


So, when she heard a team of faculty and admissions personnel from Wake Forest School of Medicine was visiting UNCP’s campus this week, Locklear was sure to block off time from her busy schedule. 


Locklear was among 20 students–predominately pre-med and those in pre-health degree pathway programs––who engaged with the Wake Forest team. 


“I felt inspired,” Locklear, 36, said after the visit. “I was probably the only nontraditional student in the room, but I got more information and learned what to expect as an older medical student."


Locklear’s inspiration to become a physician grew out of the doctor-patient relationships she experienced with her parents, who have endured significant health issues over the years. 

The visit––arranged by the Health Career Access Program (HCAP)––included a campus tour, a Q&A session with students and a tour of Dr. Ben Bahr’s Alzheimer's Disease Research Lab. They also spoke to members of the HCAP student organization. The Wake Forest delegation included representatives from the school’s physician assistant program, Doctor of Medicine (MD) program and biomedical science graduate program. 

The visit was a full circle moment for Dr. Holly Pilson, an associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and alumna. Pilson is a Red Springs native and member of the Lumbee Tribe.

“I’m from the area and most of my family graduated from UNCP, but because of the field of medicine I chose as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon, it wasn’t a great option for me to practice here,” Pilson said. “This visit is my way of giving back by helping on the admissions side of the medical school in terms of recruiting and helping students from this area prepare to go to medical school. 


We wanted to be intentional about engaging students from UNC Pembroke who are pre-med or pre-health and introducing them to our school and show them that they can be successful in our program,” she said. “We want to form better partnerships. Historically, students from UNCP have predominantly gone on to health professions programs at ECU, UNC and Duke. We are trying to explore and be more intentional in recruiting more students from this campus.”