Alumni Portrait: Ashleigh Wright, M.D. ’07
By Mary Goodwin
Every day, Ashleigh Wright, M.D. ’07, wakes up and looks forward to going to work. As a primary care physician and assistant professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine division of general internal medicine, she spends equal parts of her time doing what she loves most — caring for patients and teaching students.
Growing up alongside her father and aunt who are both physicians, Wright was exposed to health care at an early age. She always planned to attend medical school, until she entered a rebellious stage in college and entertained the idea of becoming a mathematician.
“I realized that as a mathematician, the majority of my time would be spent alone,” Wright said. “I wanted to find a job that allowed me to apply my scientific interests while interacting with people. I’ve always been glad I found that in medicine.”
Her journey to become a physician began in 2000 at UF, where Wright earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2003. When she applied to medical schools, she listed Florida as her first choice.
“When I stepped through the doors to the College of Medicine, I could tell that the program overall really valued the happiness and wellbeing of the students,” Wright said. “It was obvious that this program had a high degree of rigor and would make me the kind of doctor I wanted to be.”
When it came time for residency, she knew she wanted to stay at UF because the program focused on caring for the whole patient. As a student, she had the opportunity to work with the College of Medicine residents and saw firsthand their advanced knowledge and skill.
By her third year of residency in the UF Health Internal Medicine at Tower Hill program, Wright was inducted to the Chapman Chapter of the Gold Humanism Society. After completion of the program in 2010, she joined the division of general internal medicine as a junior faculty member.
During that time, curricular overhaul led to the need for a new course for second year-students that would integrate anatomy, radiology, physical examination skills, and medical decision making. Wright worked to develop “Introduction to Clinical Medicine III and IV” with the goal of approaching medical teaching in a way that was meaningful to students and encouraged the clinical application of core science early on.
“I knew in medical school I wanted to teach, so it was an amazing opportunity to create a syllabus for a new course,” she said. “I enjoy interacting with other faculty members, including Kyle Rarey, to make sure the medical students have the best experience possible.”
Equally rewarding is her time spent at Tower Hill with her patients, where she finds joy in forming long-lasting relationships.
“I really view my patients as part of a family,” she said. “I see them through good times and bad, and care for them both physically and emotionally. I am honored by the trust my patients have in me and the bonds that we are able to form.”
Wright’s passion for education, research and care led to her appointment as the site director for medical education at Tower Hill, a role in which she served until 2013, when her focus shifted to medical student education in the pre-clinical years. She also serves as a COM collaborative group leader, forming close relationships with small groups of eight students throughout their four-year medical school experience.
“I feel like I’m one of the luckiest people in the world,” she said. “I get to teach in both a small, intimate setting, and I also have the opportunity to educate and interact with the entire class. I can’t imagine having a better role in medical education.”
Wright has received numerous honors and awards regarding her medical student education. She received the Exemplary Medical Student Teacher Award in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as the department of medicine’s Quality Improvement Research Program grant in 2010 for her project that studied safety and observation of housestaff-performed procedures. She was also named a faculty board member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, a role she currently serves in.
Wright feels very fortunate to have a supportive group of faculty members who provide both formal and informal mentorship. Many of these mentors, whom she now considers close friends, guided her through medical school and residency, like Carolyn Stalvey, M.D. ’99, an associate professor of medicine and a primary care internist, and Melanie Hagen, M.D., an associate professor and medical director of internal medicine at the UF Health Medical Plaza.
“Carolyn modeled everything I hoped to in life. She’s confident and intelligent — and as a mother, she found a way to balance her personal and professional life,” Wright said. “And Melanie has fostered my professional development from my first day in clinics when she and I shared an office. She always made me feel comfortable and included me in every educational opportunity.”
Another faculty member on her list of influencers is Patrick Duff, M.D., an associate dean and professor at the College of Medicine, who not only impacted her educational experience, but also delivered both of her children — Madeline, 2, and George, who was born in January.
In her free time, Wright enjoys running and physical fitness — she completed her first half marathon in 2011 with her husband, George — and vacationing in the desert southwest, particularly New Mexico and Utah. When they are not traveling, her family takes advantage of outdoor attractions in Gainesville such as kayaking in Lake Wauberg and the springs, and camping and visiting nearby beaches.
In the future, Wright hopes to continue in her current role at UF as long as possible.
“The balance that I currently have in my career is something that I always hoped to have,” she said. “The 50-50 split between medical education and clinical practice gives me the opportunity to demonstrate skill and compassion in both of my loves. Every day I give my all, because I know how lucky and blessed I am in all aspects of my life — especially my wonderful family and my fulfilling career.”