“Why don’t we do something fun?”
In October 2019, the late Dr. Brian Wisnoski spearheaded the first “Wellness in Action” activity for first-year medical students. Wisnoski, assistant professor of family and community medicine who saw patients at Harris Health’s Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center, believed that burgeoning medical professionals needed fun activities separate from their studies and lab rotations.
Wellness initiatives at Baylor College of Medicine have evolved since that first activity day; students have had opportunities to participate in everything from yoga to kickball in the courtyard to Zumba class and coloring sessions in Rayzor Lounge. Students relished the opportunity to come together and not open a book or a laptop.
Before he could return to the kickball field with his students, Wisnoski died from cancer in June 2021, leaving behind his wife Jackie, son Evan and daughter Brooke. The doctor and avid adventurer was 41.
On March 30, the Office of Student Affairs hosted the inaugural “Brian’s Field Day,” which kicked off with a short remembrance ceremony. In attendance were the late doctor’s immediate family, as well as his parents, Mark and Debbie, in-laws, Donald and Mildred, sister-in-law Jessica and cousin Andy.
Dr. Lee Poythress, associate dean of student affairs and associate professor, said Wisnoski’s “Wellness in Action” days were the highest rated activities for first-year medical students in 2019 and early 2020. And now, the event will be renamed to reflect the person who advocated for student wellness.
Wisnoski was a Learning Community Advisor for medical students. First-year students are placed in Baylor’s Learning Community, which are networks of clinical faculty advisors who help guide them through the medical school process until commencement.
“Dr. Wisnoski was very welcoming to all of his students and a joy to work with,” said Dr. Milena Gould Suarez, a Learning Community director and associate professor of gastroenterology. “He was an invaluable advisor to students, but he made us better advisors ourselves.”
In 2021, he won the Norton Rose Fulbright Faculty Excellence Award of Teaching and Evaluation and the 2021 MLK Faculty of the Year award, which is voted on by medical students.
Dr. Anoop Agrawal, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics, was recruited to Baylor by Wisnoski, a man he called his work brother. During an annual work retreat, the pair talked about the tenacity a good life requires and how that yields the best results.
“Life is not easy, and it’s something special to face adversity and be so calm,” Agrawal said about his friend. “His illness was just a footnote in his career. (Upon returning to work after treatment), he didn’t ask for special treatment; his focus was service and patients first.”
By Julie Garcia