“For me, my experience at Bardstown City Schools was very fulfilling. It was well-rounded and there were so many different activities I could participate in,” said Carla Renee Lydian-Fray, a successful physician assistant at Heartland ENT and Allergy Center in Elizabethtown, KY.
As a student, Renee sang in chorus, played tennis, softball and participated in marching band, the National Honors Society, academic team, and the judo club, which was started and run by Coach Roland Williams.
Through the marching band she was able to travel to Toronto, Canada over spring break in 1987.
"As a young student my family never traveled," said Renee. "Through the marching band I was able to travel to Canada and meet people of different cultures and see different sites like the CN Tower, Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls was so nice.”
After graduating high school she attended Berea College and majored in biology and pre-medicine. In 1997 she earned a Bachelors of Health Science of Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Kentucky. Her medical career began in general surgery in Campbellsville, KY and took her all the way to Enterprise, Alabama where she worked in the emergency room of a hospital.
"You never knew what was coming in the door; it could be trauma or just a cough or broken bones," said Renee. "I loved that job."
As a physician assistant and a single mom, Renee’s day starts at 5:55 am. She heads straight to her work computer to check patient charts before getting her son ready for school. By 7:40 am she is in her office meeting with her first patient. On a busy day Renee sees close to 25 patients whom she treats for head and neck injuries and anything related to ears and the throat. Often her patients are standing in front of her because they haven't been able to find out the cause of their pain or discomfort. Her most challenging days are the ones where she has to deliver the news of cancer.
"These are real people and these are life changing things I am going to say to this person, so that’s difficult," explains Renee.
That's why on her mornings into work she asks God to guide and lead her to have healing hands so that she may impact people in positive ways.
"I try to always put myself in the shoes of the patient in front me," she said. "I approach them with empathy and being gentle and kind, but honest and truthful at the same time."
While her profession comes with a lot of pressure to get the diagnosis correct, it's a profession Renee loves. This month Renee’s achievements in the medical field will land her in the new African-American Heritage Museum at historic Union Church on North Second Street. Lydian-Fray is the first African American from the Bardstown/Nelson County community to become a physician assistant.
Renee's advice to BCS students is to "shoot for the stars."