10 Under 10: Distinguished Young Alumni

The Winners of 2021

Gary A. Bethea, D.D.S. ’11

Gary Bethea

Field: Dentistry

Specialty: General Dentistry

My source of motivation

It is a huge and unexpected blessing to be honored with this award from my beloved alma mater. As my wife and I raise four sons, it’s important that I teach them about service not just by what I say, but how they see me live it out. This award is not about me, but about the glory my Father receives: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Italo Brown

Field: Medicine

Specialty: Emergency Medicine

My source of motivation

My greatest source of motivation is my late mother, Dekozlyn Brown. While on this earth, she was a living testament of dedication to her family, her students and to her community. She was selfless, loved abundantly, fought tirelessly and always emphasized the power of faith. My accomplishments are a reflection of the sweat equity she and many others invested in me and I’m forever indebted.

Donavan Caves

Field: Dentistry

Specialty: General Dentistry

My source of motivation

My motivation gratefully has remained the same as the reason I chose to attend Meharry Medical College—the opportunity to provide oral health care, specifically to the underserved community. The skillset to diagnose, treat and prevent health issues is a blessing.

 

This career overlaps multiple roles that vary across the board, from therapist, educator, accountant, leader and manager. These functions demonstrate how providers, like myself, commit daily to solve problems and help by all means necessary. Continuing care in our current pandemic environment reaffirms my personal commitment to face challenges and serve.

Jeffery Clemmons

Field: Medicine

Specialty: Anesthesiology

My source of motivation

My family has been an immense source of motivation throughout my life, but I have gained a renewed appreciation for them in recent years. My wife, parents and brothers, along with several others—my dear aunt, grandparents and close colleagues—supported me while I was dealing with some particularly challenging obstacles during my medical training and the early part of my career at Vanderbilt. Without the love and support from these people, in addition to my faith in God, I would have given up.

 

When I think about all that they provided me throughout those tough times, I am inspired to encourage, support and advocate for my patients and trainees during some of the most difficult times in their lives. As an academic anesthesiologist, I absolutely love what I do and the people that I do it for. As a Meharrian, my desire for my career is to always give more than I take and encourage others to do the same.

Drake Dudley

Field: Dentistry

Specialty: General Dentistry

My source of motivation

Family, friends and the future are the reasons why I strive for excellence in my endeavors. Coming from an underserved background, it has been my mission to be a beacon of light for the underrepresented by providing services to communities through dentistry, motivational speaking, volunteering and mentorship.

 

I currently own Smiles UP Dentistry which provides 24-hour emergency dental care. I serve as the vice president of the National Dental Association, I’m a member of the American Dental Association, I volunteer at Interfaith Dental and I’m involved in countless community projects. I want to represent Meharry’s mission: “Worship of God through service to mankind.”

LaVonne Hariston

Field: Medicine

Specialty: Obstetrics & Gynecology

My source of motivation

I have many sources of motivation, but none like the late Major Rahson Amir Taylor (Ray). Since the ninth grade we were close friends. Just after he was promoted to Air Force major in 2017, he was diagnosed with cancer. He fought for two years and kept the faith. He encouraged, uplifted, loved and—in the midst of pain and treatment—found the strength to keep going until God called him home in December 2019. I am grateful for his life, legacy and friendship. When I want to give up, Ray’s words keep me going.

 

What we do requires an immense amount of grit and dedication, many sleepless nights, endless stress and a calling that only we can fully understand. Many times in my life and career I felt like my efforts were in vain. During those moments, the love of my parents, the encouraging words of friends—and the motivation from Ray—have carried me. I’ve also come to understand that no one will look out for our community the way that we do—we have to keep going.

Armen Henderson

Field: Medicine

Specialty: Internal Medicine

My source of motivation

My family would have supported whatever I wanted to do in life and would have been proud of me regardless. Because of that freedom, I was allowed to become the type of person I am today— that doesn’t accept the status quo, that creates new ways of serving people that look like me and that looks for alternative ways to solve complex problems that affect minority communities.

 

After I finished medical school at Meharry, I had all the tools I needed to blaze a new path for medical professionals looking to step outside of the hospital doors and into the communities like the one I was raised in. That’s the legacy I will continue to uphold, with my family cheering me on all the way.

La’Nyia Odoms

Field: Medicine

Specialty: Internal Medicine and Pediatrics

My source of motivation

My family has supported my social, personal and professional growth. In times of vulnerability and comfort, I am reminded of their strength and eternal love. They have always been and will continue to be my source of motivation.

Simeon Udunka

Field: Dentistry

Specialty: General Dentistry

My source of motivation

My source of motivation has always derived from my faith in God and dedication to family. In times of uncertainty, I remind myself to push forward because my family is counting on me. As a child my mother raised me as a single parent but instilled a high level of accountability. I am forever grateful to my mom for her commitment and sacrifice to me achieving my dream of becoming a dentist. Present day my wife Chioma and kids are responsible for my daily high-octane drive and raising the next generation of Meharrians. Though my wife credits me for being a super dad, I have to give her major accolades for her daily sacrifice while working from home and taking the lead on running our household of six. I could not do all I am doing if it were not for her support. I am truly honored to be one of the recipients of this prestigious award and look forward to continuing to provide a positive impact to my Alma Mater and community.

Corinthia Wilkerson

Field: Dentistry

Specialty: Periodontics Resident

My source of motivation

Throughout my life, the support of family, friends, mentors and—most importantly—faith in God has and will continue to carry me through the celebratory and challenging times. With this support, I’ve been inspired to dream big, love hard, give often and cherish every moment. My passion for leadership, desire to serve the community and dedication to health care has propelled me into my purpose, opening many doors for professional and personal development. I’m proud of the woman I am today and excited for the woman I will become.