News of the Week

Snapshots from a medical school graduation

May 22, 2024

A doctor who has really been there

Dr. Bryanna Hipp and her family.
Dr. Bryanna Harris Hipp's family, from left, sister Sara Bartell, brother-in-law Sawyer Bartell, stepfather Greg Alman, Hipp, mother Tanna Harris, nieces Jenna and Eila. (Photo by Colin Hackley for the FSU College of Medicine)

Dr. Bryanna Harris Hipp knows what it’s like to be a caregiver for a person with a disability. When the Orlando native’s mini-match sent her to the Orlando Regional Campus for her third and fourth years of medical school, she lived with her sister’s family and was one of the caregivers for her brother-in-law.

Sawyer Bartell was paralyzed in a diving accident a few years ago. He and wife Sara are the parents of two little girls, 5-year-old Jenna and 3-year-old Eila, who call Aunt Bryanna “Bobo.”

“They couldn’t say ‘Bryanna’ when they were learning to talk," her mother, Tanna Harris, said, "and she’s still ‘Bobo’.”

It was a great arrangement for the close-knit family: Hipp had a rent-free place to live and Sawyer Bartell got skilled care from one of the M.D. Class of 2024’s top graduates. She was the recipient of the Robert D. Snyder, M.D., Award for Outstanding Student in General Surgery with a Focus on Breast Cancer Award, as well as the Individual Achievement Award, which is given in recognition of a student with significant contributions and achievements as recognized by her classmates and faculty. Orlando Regional Campus Dean Mark Chaet said the Individual Achievement Award was an obvious selection. She’s also a product of the Bridge to Clinical Medicine master’s program, one of the College of Medicine’s pathways programs created to broaden and diversify the pool of applicants to medical school.

Her family and close friends Taylor Igo and Lauren and Eric Saccomanno were at commencement to share Bobo’s achievements. She’s headed to Advocate Health Care in Chicago for a residency in general surgery.

A family legacy in health care

Amelia Hartje visited her grandmother in Birmingham, Ala., in 2020 after receiving her white coat.
Amelia and her grandmother 
Amelia Hartje, right, and her aunt, Jean Phillips
Jean Phillips and Amelia Hartje

When Amelia Hartje announced from the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall stage in March that she had matched in pediatrics at the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham, she shared that she was “following in the footsteps of my 97-year-old grandma.”

Doris Phillips, M.D., was one of four women accepted into the University of Alabama Birmingham’s class of 1950. She and her husband, the late Carey William Phillips, M.D., had a pediatrics practice together there.

“I never met him,” Hartje said. “He passed when my mom was 15. But if you walk into the Children’s Hospital of Alabama, my grandmother’s name is there on the wall.”

Dr. Phillips finally fully retired at the age of 89. She was unable to make the trip to Tallahassee but watched the live-stream. Hartje had many relatives to help her celebrate her graduation, including her husband, Gustavo Machado, and her aunt, Jean Phillips, her late mother’s sister and a daughter of the pediatric power couple. Phillips is a registered nurse, working in kidney transplants.

Hartje shared a photo of her with her grandmother from 2020, whom she visited in Birmingham after she received her white coat. Dr. Phillips donned her old stethoscope for the occasion.

Speaking of doctor couples, and grandmothers ...

Dr. Taylor Posey and her partner, Dr. Donovan Trudeau, like to say they met in the psychiatric ward. Then they laugh.

Trudeau and Posey
Trudeau and Posey

Both were medical students, she at the Florida State University College of Medicine and he at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan, Ala., but both were assigned to their respective Pensacola regional campuses. He was nearing the end of a rotation with  Pensacola psychiatrist Dr. Georgia Ketchum at what was then called Pavilion, now called HCA Florida West Hospital, as Posey was just starting hers. Ketchum sent Trudeau to meet her in the lobby, help her pass the security doors into the psychiatric unit and orient her to the psychiatry rotation. Something definitely clicked.

"He was so beautiful and obviously I knew he was smart already, so he checked a few boxes in the first few seconds of us meeting (love at first sight??)," Posey wrote. Their rotations overlapped for only two days and then he was gone, but he found her on Instagram soon after and they started messaging. "I asked him to dinner and the rest is history!"

Trudeau was one of a large group of whooping, hollering supporters as Posey was hooded Saturday. The weekend before, she was doing the whooping and hollering as he graduated. He is headed to a military residency in internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and Joint Military Base San Antonio as a U.S. Air Force officer, while she’s going to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg for a residency in obstetrics and gynecology. Given how busy both will be, they're confident a long-distance romance will work out fine.

Taylor Posey holding a photo of her with her grandmother Cindy Posey
Dr. Taylor Posey pays tribute to Nana.

“I’m definitely not letting her get away,” he said.

Posey was another graduate paying tribute to a grandmother who couldn't attend in person. "Nana" Cindy Posey, who lives in Destin, is 86 and it's "much harder for her to get around and travel than it used to be."

The graduate posed for a photograph holding a picture of her and Nana with the iconic Westcott Fountain in the background. We can almost hear Nana now echoing President Emeritus John Thrasher's words from his commencement address, "That's my granddaughter, the doctor."

... and grandmothers and great-aunts

Some people were fortunate enough to have a grandmother at medical school graduation in person. Dr. Jodi Wilson had many family and friends in attendance, including her grandmother, Ann Doonan, and her great-aunt and Doonan's sister, Linda Luke.

Ann Doonan, left, and her granddaughter Dr. Jodi Wilson
Ann Doonan, left, and granddaughter Dr. Jodi Wilson

At Friday's awards ceremonies, Wilson was recognized as a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and one of six women honored by the American Medical Women's Association with a Glasgow-Rubin Achievement Citation for graduating in the top 10% of their class. Tallahassee Regional Campus Dean Sandeep Rahangdale said Wilson was invited to interview for residency at some of the top programs in the country, including Harvard and Johns Hopkins. She  matched in her first choice: The FSU College of Medicine's internal medicine residency program at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare.

"We're so happy she's staying here," Tallahassee resident Doonan said.

Paying it forward

The Thomas family celebrates Nick's graduation
Nick Thomas and family celebrate his medical school graduation. From left: Nick, father Wallace Thomas, brother-in-law Alexander Gilzene, nephew Kahlil Gilzene,mother Opal Thomas, sister Madean "May" Gilzene, nephew Ashton Gilzene, aunt Novelette Morris, niece Aubrielle Gilzene, sister Sheka Thomas. (Photo by Colin Hackley for the FSU College of Medicine)

M.D. Class of 2024 President Nick Thomas has known since he was a kid that he wanted to be a doctor. He tells everyone that he was inspired by his nephew Kahlil, who is only six years younger than he, and Kahlil’s mother May, one of his sisters who was only 15 when Kahlil was born with cerebral palsy.

Kahlil has had multiple surgeries to improve his quality of life, and Thomas wants to “pay it forward” as an orthopedic surgeon. Sister May went on to finish high school and college, a testament to her perseverance.

The cheering section for Thomas was large and loud at both the commencement ceremony Saturday and the Presentation of Awards Ceremony the day before. Thomas was the recipient of the Myra M. Hurt Leadership in Medicine Award, one of the college’s highest honors for a graduate. Hurt was the acting dean when the FSU College of Medicine was first created and is widely considered the college’s godmother.

Dr. Anthony Speights, senior associate dean for interdisciplinary medical sciences and Thomas’ mentor, presented the award. Thomas asked his inspirational nephew to hold it for a family portrait a short while later. On Saturday, the scenario repeated itself as Kahlil held his uncle's medical school diploma.

Contact Audrey Post at