Haley Wehder, MD, loved birthday parties. So much so, that after only one year of knowing resident Conor Malloy, MD, she threw an elaborate surprise party for his wife.
Though not a “birthday party person” himself, Dr. Malloy couldn’t help but smile that Dr. Wehder went the extra mile for someone she only knew a short time.
“I think we can assume that she just loved making someone feel special,” he said.
This was one of the qualities that made Dr. Wehder the perfect physician, especially to care for children. As a resident in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s triple-board pediatrics, psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry, she was preparing to take care of patients and make them feel seen and heard through difficult health care treatments.
Sadly, in July 2022, Dr. Wehder died at age 29 after a valiant battle with cancer. To honor Dr. Wehder’s kind heart and passion for health care, the UK College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry has helped ensure her name is always present as residents and fellows treat patients at Kentucky Children’s Hospital (KCH).
After completing its new Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit, KCH named the resident work room after Dr. Wehder, with additional financial support helping create children’s programming in the unit. As of June 27, the fund reached $31,498, exceeding the initial goal of $25,000. The money was raised by friends, family, colleagues, and former students of Dr. Wehder’s, as well as many members throughout the departments of psychiatry, pediatrics, and beyond.
Residency program director Sandra Batsel-Thomas, MD, associate professor of psychiatry, said her team decided on the resident workspace because of the impact that Dr. Wehder had on people while at work.
“Most of the people that I talked to about Haley had some kind of story about how she was always just cracking jokes or dancing in the work room, just always having fun, regardless of the work we're doing that day,” Dr. Batsel-Thomas said.
Resident Ana Villalobos Acosta, MD, said the honor will reflect Dr. Wehder’s commitment and ability in her role as a physician. Dr. Acosta was technically designated Dr. Wehder’s “big sister” mentor during training, but she said Dr. Wehder never had to ask questions. “It was always a joke that I was supposed to teach her how to do things, but she already knew how to do everything,” Dr. Acosta said.
Born in Lexington and raised in Corbin, Dr. Wehder was a Kentuckian and “UK lifer.” Her car sported a Wildcats license plate to show her diehard fandom for the athletic teams. She attended UK for her undergraduate degree, following her parents’ footsteps. Then she attended UK for medical school. She was beginning her fourth year of her residency program when she passed away.
Dr. Wehder’s name now dons the sign outside the resident work room. Just as she celebrated others, her peers and mentors hope to celebrate her each time they go into work.
“I think having her name on a place where we do our work can help us to remember how much she loved it and how much we should really be cherishing this opportunity to do what we do,” Dr. Batsel-Thomas said.
To donate to Dr. Wehder’s fund, click here.