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Student Spotlight: Bonnie Barnes Capitalizes On Love of Medicine Through Board of Trustees Involvement

Bonnie Barnes, MD

When Bonnie Barnes – then Bonnie Lynch – was accepted to medical school, she knew it would be a great experience.

But besides earning her MD, she also had the opportunity to serve as a student representative on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.

Both her father, Bruce Lynch, a dentist in the Memphis area, and her brother, Brandon Lynch, a mechanical engineer, are UT graduates.

Barnes attended Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, where she first met her husband, Zac.

“In high school, he was the point guard for the basketball team. I wore my retainers and glasses every day and worried about my AP English grade. I am so grateful that we reconnected after 10 years and now we are married!” Barnes said.

Upon graduation from high school, Barnes enrolled in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as an honors biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology major, minoring in child and family studies. Her undergraduate involvement included Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, and Student Alumni Associates. It only seemed natural for Barnes to choose the field of medicine.

“I chose a career in medicine because I love getting to know people. I enjoy puzzles and challenges, and that is what medicine is all about.”

Choosing UTHSC to further her medical education was a natural for Barnes. “One of the many reasons that I decided to come to UTHSC was because of my family history at this school. I love listening to my father talk about the buildings that he spent hours in as a dental student.

“In addition, our clinical experience is unparalleled. UTHSC has connections with some of the top hospitals in the world, and very few medical schools can give you the exposure that UTHSC can. I am confident that my decision to come to UTHSC was a great one. The professors here are always willing to help and your classmates become your best friends. I can’t think of anything I would want more in a school.”

Naturally, Barnes would get involved once she got settled in at UTHSC. She served as the secretary for the class of 2016. In addition, she had the opportunity to serve on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees as a non-voting member for the 2013-2014 year and a voting member for the 2014-2015 year. The student position rotates among each of the campuses every year, and there are two student trustees on the board at any given time.

“Being on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees was one of the greatest experiences in my life,” said Barnes. “It was intimidating at first – shaking hands with individuals like Governor Haslam and President DiPietro left me starstruck for a while, but I quickly learned that the board members are just like everyone else. I enjoyed being a student on the board. I felt like my opinions mattered immensely. Being able to speak with some of the greats, like Dr. Ed Boling and Coach Pat Summitt, was definitely a highlight of my life.”

Barnes’ board experience reached a climactic point when she received a resolution honoring her service. “It was amazing to think about the two years and how much I have grown personally and professionally,” she said.

Student involvement was a priority for Barnes. “The students are the heart of our school,” she said. “We mold and shape the program to be better. If you are interested in getting more involved, you do not have to look far at all. Sign up for a Christian Medical and Dental Association mission trip. Apply for the Pediatric Oncology Education Program through St. Jude. Find something you are passionate about and go for it.”

Susan C. Brewer, MD, FACP, associate dean of Student Affairs and associate professor in the UTHSC College of Medicine, had this to say about Barnes:

“I’ve found Bonnie to be an extraordinarily energetic and determined young woman. She has a long history of excellence and has shone throughout her training. We are proud to have Bonnie represent us and anticipate that she will be a fine family medicine physician.”

Outside of her academic requirements, Barnes enjoys traveling. “I did an elective OB/GYN rotation in Cairo, Egypt, and had the experience of a lifetime,” Barnes said. “I have been to five continents and have on my ‘bucket list’ to make it to the other two!”

For incoming medical students, Barnes has the following advice. “You are probably accustomed to being top of your class in high school and college. That will change for most of you. You most likely will make a grade on a test that you have never seen before in your life. Just know that it’s completely normal! You were selected to be here for a reason, so do not be discouraged!”

Barnes plans to practice family medicine in the South. She also plans to travel and engage in mission work.

Next: Charles Walker Brings Social Justice to the Forefront of Nursing