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Celebrating NeighborHealth’s Future Leaders in Medicine

Published by
Rich Kells
June 26, 2024

Tommy Rychener

Lab Technician

For the past four years, Tommy has overseen the daily on-site lab testing performed at NeighborHealth.  He came to NeighborHealth as a Raleigh Fellow and then decided to work full-time for a few years.

Tommy Rychener

Born and raised in Phoenix, Tommy is the youngest of three children.  He attended The University of Arizona, where he studied molecular and cellular biology, and declared pre-med status. The time he spent at NeighborHealth after graduation helped him ensure medical school was the right fit for him.

“Before I joined NeighborHealth, I was debating between a career in medicine or cognitive behavioral therapy,” Tommy says.  “But my time at NeighborHealth helped me confidently choose medicine. Working in a clinical setting, building relationships with patients, and putting into practice some of the things I’ve learned over the years really helped me make this important decision.”

Tommy will attend Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine starting in July, where he will study to become a doctor.  

“I want to be a doctor because I believe that medicine as a career transcends a lot of what I already know about serving others. It steps into a territory that almost feels sacred or holy,” Tommy explains. “It’s such a privilege to care for people in their deeper, more private moments, and to help address their insecurities and fears. I also just love to be with people, chat with them, and care for them in a way that the Lord calls us to do.  All of this intersecting together makes medicine the best career choice for me.”

Tommy is grateful to NeighborHealth for giving him hands-on responsibility and the opportunity to build strong relationships with patients.  He has particularly enjoyed working with refugees, those recovering from addiction, and patients experiencing other challenging life circumstances.

“The opportunity to care for people from diverse backgrounds has helped me grow in my cultural awareness and is something that I have truly loved and appreciated,” Tommy says.  

When asked what he will miss most about NeighborHealth, Tommy says “the patients.”  

“These patients are fantastic. I have loved getting to know them, talking with them, and seeing their family pictures,” Tommy reflects.  “It has all meant so much to me.”  

Becca Cloninger

Becca Cloninger

Medical Assistant

As a full-time medical assistant at NeighborHealth, Becca has worked closely with provider Yaying Wang, PA-C, since 2023.  For the past six months, she has also coordinated the free mobile mammogram program at NeighborHealth, for women without insurance. 

Becca will leave NeighborHealth this June as she prepares to start her medical training at the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine in July.  She feels blessed that she was offered a full scholarship to the four-year Brody Scholars Program, North Carolina’s most distinguished medical scholarship. 

Originally from Gastonia, N.C., Becca has always enjoyed a very happy family life and is extremely close with her grandparents – who she considers her greatest role models for faith and life.

From an early age, Becca felt a close connection to the healthcare field. As a triplet, she and two of her siblings were born 10 weeks early and spent several weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Upon graduating from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2023, Rebecca knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine but did not know exactly what that would look like for her.  However, since joining NeighborHealth last year, Rebecca says her “why” has been affirmed.

“God showed me the way and called me to become a doctor,” Becca says.  “In sending me to NeighborHealth, He also showed me my desire to care for the underserved. What has made the biggest impression on me during my time at NeighborHealth is how we choose to be compassionate with our patients.  This takes a great deal of reliance on the Lord, and I am thankful that He called me to do this work.”

Not only did NeighborHealth help Becca decide to become a doctor, but the clinic also helped her decide upon her future area of specialty – primary care/family medicine. Her fellowship experience has also helped her understand the challenges faced by various patient populations and the major impact a healthcare provider can have on a patient’s life.

“In this primary care setting, we are privileged to see our patients regularly and check up on them, which I love,” Becca says.  “We can also band together in a compassionate way to reduce barriers in healthcare and welcome many patients.  A lot of our patients have no family here and no other source of support – for example, our refugee population.  When they come here, we are their family.  This has been very special for me.”

As she moves on to medical school, Becca is excited to take this next step and get to know the Greenville, N.C. community. She is also excited to learn more about nutrition, one of her passions, and to find a fellowship where she can pass on nutrition education and health literacy to underserved patients in Greenville.

David Parker

David Parker

Medical Assistant

David came to NeighborHealth in January 2023 to serve as a medical assistant.  Since then, he has been helping care for patients by getting them ready to see the provider and coordinating many aspects of their care.  

Born in upstate New York, David attended Wheaton College in Illinois and then entered the United States Army. He relocated to North Carolina five years ago while on active duty and was stationed at Fort Bragg (since renamed Fort Liberty). David has served as an Army paratrooper and officer.   

“Growing up, I was always interested in medicine, even though no one in my family worked in healthcare,” David explains.  “However, we did volunteer as a family at a small, free medical clinic in upstate New York, very similar to NeighborHealth, and it inspired me to choose medicine as a career.  My experiences in the Army also helped shape this choice.”

It was during a mock patient exercise with the Army that David first learned about the existence of the physician assistant (PA) profession. Fast-forward to January 2025, and David will enter the two-year Physician Assistant Studies program at the UNC School of Medicine.  He feels that his experience at NeighborHealth has done much to prepare him for his career as a PA.

“A mission like that of NeighborHealth’s can quickly be forgotten as providers advance in their medical careers,” David says.  “But not at NeighborHealth. Seeing how my colleagues interact with patients, regardless of their cultural differences or life situations, has given me the best insight into how medicine should be practiced.  This clinic has shown me what true health disparities are and what a lack of health literacy can do among underserved populations. This knowledge will guide me in providing the best patient care I can provide.”

Once he becomes a PA, David hopes to work in either critical care or the emergency room handling acute injuries.  He wants to use the critical thinking skills he gained in the Army and as a volunteer for organizations that deploy international field hospitals for medical disasters. After leaving NeighborHealth, David says he will miss all of the incredible providers he has worked with, especially Rachel Lehman, FNP-BC, and Dr. Doug Briggs, acting chief medical officer.

“I have been inspired by the amazing experiences I’ve had with these providers, as well as the perspectives and wealth of knowledge they have shared with me,” David says.  “They directly influenced how I think about medicine. I will also miss the patients with whom I have shared such meaningful connections during my time at NeighborHealth.”

Thank you Tommy, Becca, and David for blessing NeighborHealth – our staff, providers, and patients – with your service and commitment!  We are so proud of your accomplishments and wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors in medicine.

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NeighborHealth Center, Inc. (NHC), is a private, non-profit 501(c)3 agency founded to meet the healthcare needs of the underserved in the Raleigh area.