Dr. Wendy Likes has a lot of letters following her name. Ph.D., DNSC, APRN-BC and FAANP, to be exact. Her education and extensive career in healthcare have taken her from St. Jude to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), where she is now the Dean of the College of Nursing. Like most women, Dr. Likes has multiple roles. She considers being a wife and mother her most important, and, aside from serving as Dean, she also founded and runs the Center for HPV and Dysplasia Clinic at UT’s Regional One Physicians Group. We are delighted to introduce the dynamic and charming Dr. Likes, our latest FACE of Memphis!
Tell us a bit about your professional journey.
While I was earning my associates degree in Jonesboro, I did a summer internship at St. Jude. I never, ever thought I would deal with cancer. No one I’m close to has ever had cancer, but it was a privilege to do the internship, and I loved the people and the patients so much that I stayed on after graduation. While I was working full-time at St. Jude, I went back to school and earned my bachelor’s degree, and from there I entered the Masters Family Nurse Practitioners program. After that, I went into orthopedics for a little while and then entered the field of gynecologic oncology. Kind of a mixture of two things I love — dealing with cancer patients, which I find a lot of meaning in, and women’s health. While I did that, I went back and got my DNSc degree, a Doctor of Nursing Science degree, which is a practicing doctorate. Directly after graduating I joined on as faculty at UT. Since then, I have gone back and gotten a Ph.D. I’m never afraid to seek out opportunities and let people know what I’m interested in. I think sometimes people don’t do a good job of speaking up for themselves, and you can’t wait around for something to come to you; you have to let people know that you’re interested in developing yourself and moving forward.
What do you love most about your work?
There is so much I love about it, so it’s hard to say what I love the most. I love working with people, and I love working with people who are thought leaders and innovators who will challenge me. It’s so exciting to develop new initiatives to help out the community. At the College of Nursing here at UTHSC, we all strive to meet the needs of the state, the mid-south and our community. I get great joy from thinking outside the box — who can we partner with to try and get x-y-z going?
What health advice do you wish everyone would follow?
People really need to be getting checkups and following through with their doctor’s recommendations. It’s so important that we stay on top of our health with regular checkups and screenings like mammograms.
What advances in healthcare are you most looking forward to in the next 5 to 10 years?
I think the big data opportunities — the ability to sort through large amounts of data to find patterns, predictive analytics. Healthcare is evolving and will definitely look different in the future. I think some of the things I look forward to are where all practitioners practice at the top of their license, and advanced practice RNs have full practice authority to be able to do the things we are uniquely trained to do in order to improve access while maintaining quality.
Tell us where you’re from. Native Memphian?
I was born in Mississippi and raised in Memphis. I guess that’s why I have such a deep love for this community. Being a native Memphian, I have a lot of love and compassion for the city and its people.
Tell us about your family.
I have a husband, who is so supportive of me and my career. He was there 100% while I got all of my degrees. But recently, I mentioned that a law degree might be interesting, and he said, “I have to draw the line now!” We have two sons, one is 15 and one is 12, and they are both very active in sports and just really good kids. Because of my career, my husband takes a lot of the load with the kids and their sports, but I make an effort to be at every game. I rarely miss anything unless I’m out of town.
What do you do in your free time?
Since my kids are still young, when I’m not working, I’m spending time with them. As for unwinding, I work out and do kickboxing several times a week, which is definitely a release for me and hopefully it’s keeping me healthy.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
It has to be my kids. But if its career-related, I’d have to say being able to get a group of faculty and staff together and to say, “Here’s our plan. Let’s start implementing it.” I’ve been in this role for two years, and we’re still in the beginning stages of our strategic plan, but to see parts of it already coming together is really exciting, and it feels momentous at times.
What inspires you?
It doesn’t take a whole lot to inspire me; it’s really just seeing change. If I see small, incremental change towards the positive, it gives me energy.
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be…
It’s so corny, I know, but in today’s world, I would want my power to be able to spread love and peace.
What are your guilty pleasures?
Coke Zero. I try not to drink too much of it, but I’ve got to have at least one a day. That and The Walking Dead.
What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
I have an identical twin sister.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I first became Dean, I received a card from a faculty member that reminded me to make notes of the good days to sustain me through the bad ones. Basically, try to stay positive. Not every day is going to be wonderful, but focus on the good you’re doing and the good you’ve done, and that can really sustain you.
What are three frivolous or lighthearted things you can’t live without?
Quiet time — I don’t get a lot of it, so I truly treasure having time to self-reflect. My iPhone — I think most of us would have a really hard time living without our phones; it’s our connection to the world. Music — I love all kinds of music from country to rock to classical; I find a lot of peace in music.
Thank you to Dr. Likes! Learn more about her work as Dean of the College of Nursing at University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and her work with the Center for HPV and Dysplasia Clinic at UT’s Regional One Physicians Group.
Thanks to Micki Martin for the fabulous photos of Dr. Likes!
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