In His Father’s Footsteps

JEFFREY PENNINGS | Student | Goshen, NY

Undergrad: Clemson University

BY Billy Liggett, Photo by Bennett Scarborough

Jeffrey Pennings has been wearing stethoscopes and seeing patients since he was a toddler.

Of course, the equipment and the patients weren’t his … they were his father’s. The son of osteopathic physician Dr. Nicholas J. Pennings, Jeffrey Pennings grew up in the industry and early on developed a curiosity and admiration for the work his dad performed in Warwick, N.Y., located a little over an hour north of New York City.

“Growing up, I loved the stories about his experiences, and when I would hang around his office, I always liked the way he interacted with his patients,” the younger Pennings says. “That personable approach and the relationships he built over the years … that’s the same thing I desire when I practice medicine.”

After high school, Pennings enrolled at Clemson University with medicine in mind. He majored in bio science and minored in psychology. He also ran cross country and long distance events for the Clemson track team.

When it came time to look at medical schools, Pennings was set on following in his father’s footsteps by seeking admission into a school of osteopathic medicine. Excited about the chance to blaze a trail and be a part of the first class of doctors at a new school, Pennings chose Campbell University’s new med school.

As it turns out, Jeffrey’s father ended up following in his son’s footsteps … joining Campbell after Jeffrey’s acceptance as an assistant professor for the med school’s Department of Family Medicine.

“Campbell just seemed like a healthy, exciting environment for both of us,” Jeffrey Pennings says. “It’s an interesting time to be in medicine, and this school is coming at a great time. Campbell’s program and its curriculum, I think, will lead the way in this new approach to medical education, and I think you’ll start seeing other med schools follow.”

Pennings says he wasn’t familiar with Campbell until he started researching for the med school. But he already likes the community — Buies Creek reminds him of his hometown of Goshen, N.Y. — and he’s excited about what the school and his class will mean to the university and the community.

“My friends have asked me, ‘Where’s Buies Creek?’ and I’ll tell them, ‘Just outside of Raleigh.’ They’ll respond with ‘How close to Raleigh?’ and I’ll say, ‘That’s not important,’” Pennings says. “This school is right where it needs to be. The community will benefit, and the students will be trained in an environment similar to the areas of this state that need physicians and improved health care. I’m going to be very comfortable here.”

As for his future, Pennings says he wants to go into primary care, preferably in North or South Carolina. Not only will be following in his father’s footsteps, but his siblings as well (he has three brothers — one of them a registered nurse — and a sister who is getting her masters in public health).

His goal is to be the kind of physician his father was — someone who cared deeply about his patients’ wellness and became an important part of his community.

“When my dad left his practice, his patients cried,” Pennings recalls. “They were happy for him, but they were sad to lose him. He worked for years in a small farming town, and he had a huge impact on their lives.

“That’s the kind of doctor I want to be.”