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April 2023

Neurosurgical resident draws on WBU experiences

Dr. Hailey Budnick’s educational journey took a different path than she first intended. After all, it’s pretty rare for someone who has long dreamed of the Ivy League to choose a smaller Christian private school in West Texas. Visiting the campus changed all that.

“I loved hearing about the different classes I could study other than just pre-med. I could study religion, music and different languages. It seemed like I would be able to learn a little bit of everything that interested me,” remembers Hailey, who was honored with the Distinguished Young Alumni Award during homecoming. “My family and I were stressing about the money situation at an

Budnick in surgery
Showing her intern surgical skills

Ivy League college, and when I met Dr. Reinhart, he said that based on my test scores, it was safe to say I’d probably get a full ride here. I applied that weekend at Big Weekend, and my acceptance letter beat me home.”

Though initially disappointed to turn down acceptance at Yale, Hailey quickly found a home at Wayland Baptist University and immersed herself both in vigorous academic study as well as campus life, including choir and a service sorority Alpha Delta Kappa. She came in with a clear end goal: to become a neurosurgeon. Choosing a double-major in molecular biology and chemistry, she was enthusiastic about the coursework that would get her to the medical field.

Broadened horizons

But on the other side of the campus, Hailey was diving heart-first into another field of study: intercultural missions. Initially she chose a minor in the field but when the major was added, she tacked that onto her degree plan as well.

“Those classes were so fun to study for because it didn’t feel like studying. It was fun reading about all of the world religions and all the ancient texts and languages, and I honestly found that to be a break from my other classes,” she laughs. Having felt a call to missions before arriving at Wayland, she said she was grateful for the chance to get some training in that area while pursuing her undergraduate degree.

While at WBU, Hailey got to put all that training into action with trips to Israel with then-missions professor and mentor Dr. Rick Shaw and to Haiti with then-BSM director Donnie Brown. She fell in

Budnick mug

Sergeant-at-arms at

2022 national conference

love with the small island nation and ached to return on her own, but admittedly had no money, no organization to accompany, and no real plan. She only had the drive to serve. She figured it would take about $3,300 to make the return trip and cover all her expenses while there.

Hailey said she left the matter to prayer, enlisting her sorority and her Bible study group to join her. Soon she got a call from the Wayland business office to pick up a credit check. It was for exactly $3,300. By the time she graduated, Hailey said she’d made around a dozen trips to Haiti and was fairly fluent in the Haitian Creole language, serving often as interpreter and helping in clinical work and other medical missions. And while those experiences have been on hold through her medical school and residency years, she feels strongly she’ll do more of it in the future.

Following her heart

While at WBU, Hailey was accepted into the state’s Joint Admissions Medical Program, or JAMP, where she interned at various Texas medical schools during her summers and was guaranteed admission to one after she completed her Wayland degree. She was matched to Texas Tech University Medical School in El Paso, which she enjoyed because of its focus on border health and “it felt like we were on the mission field.”

The disadvantage to TTU-El Paso was the lack of a neurosurgery department, so Hailey said she focused her elective rotations on places where she could work hard and hopefully get good recommendations for residency. Her “reach” place was Indiana, and though she had initially chose

Budnick surgery 2
Clipping a ruptured intracerebral aneurysm 

her rotation for the experience and the letter of recommendation, she ended up loving the experience and ranked it No. 1 on her rank list for residency Match Day.  

Hailey’s hard work helped her despite the odds against her. She developed her own research and solicited others to work with her. Her efforts paid off, and those childhood aspirations of becoming a neurosurgeon came true, matching at her top choice for residency. Currently, Hailey is nearing the end of her fifth year in an intensive neurosurgical residency at Indiana University. She’s been heavily involved in research and wants to focus on her work in the subspecialty of functional neurosurgery, selecting the area for her fellowship held jointly during her last year at Indiana.

“My biggest passion is epilepsy, especially in children. You see kids with so much potential, and it’s all stripped from them because they are having ten seizures a day. They can’t learn to talk or walk or take care of themselves. You can do a pretty simple procedure and give them their life. That is so impactful,” she said. “I’ve seen a kid say their first word in the hospital two days after surgery because their brain is finally able to catch up when they’re not having seizures all the time.

“Another type of functional neurosurgery is dealing with children with cerebral palsy where you can do a simple procedure to decrease their spasticity, and they can walk for the first time. That’s incredibly satisfying as well.”

In the research lab

Hailey has been heavily involved in research at Indiana University, including using radiation wafers for patients following surgery for brain cancer and one involving spinal cord stimulators in children to eliminate chronic pain syndromes. She said she believes research will be something she continues since her field is based on ever-changing technology and new developments happen regularly.

Her Wayland experiences, specifically as part of the Welch Research Program with fellow student Jessica Kenneson under mentor professor Dr. Robert Moore, were instrumental in setting Hailey up

Budnick painting

Hailey's self-portrait, "The

Anointing," of her call to medicine

for success in medical school and now in residency.

“It definitely started me off on the right foot. I was able to learn how to do the western blots and other research tools and assays that are essential, and you don’t get taught that when you start out in the lab,” she said. “It was a really impactful experience because all of those skills I would have been without. Every time I stepped into a lab in medical school and afterward, I was expected to know how to do that and I was taught by Dr. Moore during that experience at Wayland.”

Hailey lists Moore among her top mentors while at WBU, both as a “fantastic lecturer and a great teacher.” She also participated in a six-hour Bible study each week at Moore’s home alongside fellow students for four years, a valuable experience as well.

“It was an opportunity to get to know a faculty member very closely by studying the scripture with them, and also being in class learning chemistry with them. It was a really valuable relationship, and I really appreciated it especially because people think science and faith are so opposed when they don’t have to be,” she said. “To have someone who is unequivocally brilliant like Dr. Moore but who is also a man of faith who leads Bible studies was so impactful. It was a really great place for me to flourish.”

Once her schooling officially ends, Hailey said she wants to work with children and is open to wherever the Lord leads. She was newly married in October 2022 and would like to stay nearby her two young step-children, but eventually she’d loved to be closer to her family in Houston.


Devotional: Walk in a worthy manner

"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, iwth all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

The Apostle Paul strongly urges us to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling we have received. Our walk should reflect the fact that the Lord Jesus has called us to Himself and into His kingdom. Be mindful that in a kingdom, there is only one King. Sadly, far too many Christians have the mistaken idea that they are free to live any way they want and do anything they want. Our walk is to be one where we reflect the reality of Christ's lordship and complete control of us.

When the Lord is in control, our walk with reflect Him. Our walk will look like His walk and will be aWalking feet testimony of who Jesus is in us. This is the genuine Christian walk, where the Lord is the source of everything in our lives. Any other kind of walk, even one dedicated to God, is an exercise in man-made religious endeavor and is therefore contrary to the very Lord to whom we have been called. There is only one walk that is worthy to the Lord; that is the walk that comes from being surrendered and submitted to Him. It's the walk that He does through us.

What does this walk look like? The Lord tells us so we can be sure from an objective source of truth that we are walking in a worthy manner. Paul tells us to walk in all lowliness and gentleness. Our walk is never one where we are puffed up, or where we exalt ourselves. It is also characterized by gentleness. The Lord Jesus, in dealing with this sin-fallen world, showed this gentleness. With one word He could have destroyed this godless world, but He came for another purpose.

We are to be longsuffering with one another, and in love we are to bear one another's burdens. In this walk we are not alone. We are to be part of one another's lives. That can get messy, because life is many times messy. Things do not always go smoothly, and there are times when we all are going to need help and someone to come alongside us and love us and lift us up. We need to be careful not to become impatient with one another.

Finally, Paul reminds us of the need in this walk to be unified. This unity comes when we walk and live in Christ, for all those in Christ are one. With all the diversity in humanity, only Christ Jesus can bring true Biblical unity. Everything else is a false unity that cannot stand.  We are called to walk in a worthy manner in this life. The only way that is possible is when we walk surrendered and submitted to the Lord.

Tony Pierce is a 1983 graduate of Wayland and is the lead pastor at Cornerstone Church in Fountain Hills. He has more than 40 years in ministry and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. He and wife Teresa, alos a WBU graduate, have two grown children. The above devotional is printed with permission from Tony's book, "The Life That's Impossible to Live."


In the Mix

For many of us employed at Wayland, there is a ministry aspect to what we do here. Regardless of the campus or even our roles, we know that God has ordained this place to make a difference in the lives of the students who call it home for however long their higher education journey lasts. 

Despite what you'd hear in the mainstream media these days, higher education still has a valuable Big Give logorole to play in preparing students for careers or advancement within their field. The liberal arts experience at Wayland also serves to expose students to a variety of information and skills, creating well-rounded employees.

But beyond that, we believe it is no accident that students just like you end up at Wayland every term. The university's belief system and integration of faith in learning hold appeal for some, but they also have the ability to change someone's life forever. And into eternity. 

We know these things resonate with you as an alumnus of Wayland. We hear it all the time from alums of all ages and all campuses. This place changes you. And it has the potential to change many more lives. But we need your help.

On April 25, we're hosting our annual giving day, the BIG GIVE. No matter what you can contribute, you will be part of making the Wayland experience possible for today's students and tomorrow's leaders. It's not about the amount; it's about being part of an effort to see Wayland thrive, welcome more students to its doors and, ultimately, to change more lives. It takes us all! Follow our Facebook pages and watch your email for more details to come.