Angel Wells ’96 (left) and Dr. Stacy Lane ’97 at Central Outreach Wellness Clinic. The two have been friends since their time as pre-med students at W&J and now work together.
Rigorous pre-med curriculum leads two alumnae to healthcare success
Since she was a child, her father had told Stacy Lane ’97 that she would be a doctor.
At times she wasn’t sure how she would get there. She was the second oldest of seven children growing up in the Crafton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Her father was ill, so her uncle, who lived a block away, often stepped in as a father figure.
Even though she struggled in high school, she grew more determined to pursue a career in medicine.
“A lot of it was driven by the chip on my shoulder,” Lane said. “I was going to prove everybody wrong and show them I could be successful. Come hell or high water I was going to be a doctor.”
She knew W&J had a good reputation for preparing students for medical school and decided to attend the College as a means to achieve her goal. The annual cost of tuition at the time was more than her mother made in a year. Thankfully, Lane received financial assistance that enabled her to attend W&J with minor out-of-pocket costs.
Lane, a first-generation college student, didn’t feel prepared academically for the pre-med curriculum at W&J but she worked hard and made it through. She felt the constant pressure of trying to succeed in her classes and achieve her goal of getting into medical school.
“It wasn’t a party time for us,” said Lane. “It was literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. W&J was harder than medical school.”
Other circumstances made her college career more difficult.
Her uncle was diagnosed with AIDS when she was a senior in high school, but he told his family it was cancer at the time. On a visit home during her freshman year, she discovered it was AIDS when she found his medication. He passed away from the disease in 1995.
The advantage of her challenging undergraduate years was that by the time she got to medical school, she felt prepared and did well. She went to Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, did her residency in internal medicine at Mercy Hospital, and completed a fellowship in infectious disease at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
During her time as an intern, Lane’s experience with the issues of the inner city paid dividends. She was able to empathize with her patients and understand where they were coming from and the issues they faced. This mentality translates well to her current practice where she serves the LGBTQ community and those at risk of contracting HIV.
She had been focused on HIV care during her time as the director of the Positive Health Clinic at Allegheny General Hospital and during her time at the Allegheny County Health Department. She had a private practice in infectious disease in the Ohio Valley, but wanted to start a clinic that would be better able to serve the several hundred patients she had been working with. Through her contacts she was able to find grant funding for an LGBTQ health clinic, which is now in the second year of a five-year grant.
“This is really a dream come true,” Lane said of her clinic.
Central Wellness Outreach Clinic now serves nearly 2,000 patients in the Pittsburgh area. Lane opened a second clinic in Washington in November after seeing a need to be closer to patients who were traveling from West Virginia or even further away.
While Lane strives to provide her patients with an open environment where they are not judged for who they are or the choices they make, this at times has brought the judgment of others to her door. The sign outside her clinic on the North Shore was defaced with hate speech last February.
“I don’t have anybody to impress. I don’t have an obligation to anyone but my patients and to do right by them,” she said.
While Lane focused on academics during her college years, she did develop a deep connection with one classmate in particular, Angel Wells ’96.
“I just loved her from the first moment I met her,” Wells said of Lane. “We just clicked.”
Lane and Wells came from similar family backgrounds and similar neighborhoods which drew them together. They bonded through the demanding classwork of the pre-med program.
Wells attended W&J for three years before moving back to her hometown of Cleveland to help her mother with her grandparents who were ill. Wells completed her degree online, and she and Lane stayed in touch as Lane pursued medical school and Wells shifted to the business of healthcare.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in business administration, she earned an MBA and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in public health with a focus on community health education.
Wells started her own healthcare consulting company in 2015 after years working for various companies and as a consultant; she now handles billing for 16 different clients across several states covering a wide range of specialties. She has been working in medical coding for almost two decades, translating medical information into codes which are used for billing and insurance purposes, and is a certified professional coder.
Wells shares her knowledge of medical coding as an adjunct faculty member at Bryant & Stratton College in the Cleveland area and has taught at other institutions through the years.
“It changes every single day. The rules, the regulations… the codes change every year,” she said.
She credits the pre-med experience at W&J with helping her find success in her career. Her background in science and anatomy allows her to have a level of insight behind the codes that many in her field do not have. When she is talking to doctors, she understands their work as someone who was preparing to go to medical school.
Wells was recently in Pittsburgh to celebrate the success of another W&J friend and classmate. She attended The Maurice Cleveland Waltersdorf Awards lunch for Kenyon Bonner ’94 in March along with several of her peers. Bonner and Wells both came from Cleveland and though they hadn’t met before W&J, they connected immediately when they met on campus. (For more on Bonner, see page 27.)
While Lane and Wells were never out of touch, as Lane started her clinic she wanted to switch billing companies to someone she knew she could trust. Wells has been handling the billing and credentialing for Lane’s clinic since February 2016, bringing the two friends closer in their daily life.
The power of the W&J connection and the bond created between two pre-med students continues to thrive and enrich the lives of both women as they find professional success, and impact the healthcare community in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and beyond.