Honoring Dr. Chaniece Wallace

October 18, 2021
Topics: About Us, Donors, Riley Staff Profiles

Dr. Wallace full size

Dr. Chaniece Wallace was a relentless advocate for her patients, a trailblazing role model for other aspiring Black physicians, and a devoted mother.

How do you honor someone with such an expansive impact – and who had so much more to give?

Dr. Wallace’s family and colleagues are exploring the best answer to that question in partnership with Riley Children’s Foundation. Their first step: creating the Diversity Scholars Fund in Pediatrics.

Diversity Scholars Fund in Pediatrics

Dr. Wallace dedicated her career to caring for children. She had begun college with the goal of becoming a meteorologist, but health challenges in her family motivated her to study medicine instead. An internship at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health solidified her interest in pediatrics, and she applied to medical school. In summer 2020, Dr. Wallace became one of three pediatric chief residents at the Indiana University School of Medicine – a significant honor in a class of more than 40 residents.

“She had a passion for making sure that anyone who goes into a hospital receives the attention that they deserve,” says Dr. Wallace’s husband, Anthony Wallace, Jr. The couple met in college and Anthony was a steadfast supporter in his wife’s journey to become a physician. He notes that Dr. Wallace was particularly thorough in getting to know her patients and their health history, and she made sure her colleagues did the same. She strove to create a safe space for every patient she encountered, particularly those from marginalized communities.

“Chaniece was blossoming as a chief,” shares Dr. Bobbi Byrne, Vice Chair of Education for the Department of Pediatrics. “She took every opportunity to grow.”

In her role as chief, Dr. Wallace became a particularly important role model to her fellow residents. “Our residents of color really found a strong voice with her as one of their chiefs,” shares Dr. Amalia Lehmann, who served alongside her as co-chief. 

Dr. Wallace was also dedicated to a child of her own – her infant daughter, Charlotte. A coffee mug with the phrase “World’s Greatest Mom” sat on her desk at work. Dr. Wallace and Anthony anticipated the arrival of their first baby in November 2020 with excited, full hearts.

On October 20, doctors informed Dr. Wallace that she was developing symptoms of preeclampsia, a dangerous complication. Charlotte was delivered early via emergency C-section, and Dr. Wallace eagerly took on her new role as a mother.

At the same time, she continued to experience complications. After multiple surgeries, Dr. Wallace died on October 22.

As support poured in from pediatric colleagues across the country, those who loved Dr. Wallace recognized that her powerful work as a physician and advocate was not finished. Creating a fund in her memory is the first step they decided on to enhance care for kids. “There are still many issues surrounding disparities in healthcare that we need to address in order to help patients. That’s what Chaniece did every day without reserve,” says Dr. Byrne.

Led by Dr. Byrne, a small committee will determine how to use the funds to best honor Dr. Wallace. Their initial focus is on educational programming for the School of Medicine’s continued work in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Although Chaniece’s primary focus for her role as a chief was not diversity training, she was the face of a successful Black woman,” says Dr. Eric Raynal, who also served as co-chief resident with Dr. Wallace. “That leadership and power in and of itself is an important message to send to younger persons of color who hope to be in her shoes one day. The fund represents her spirit and tenacity and leadership.”

 “The more we can educate people on healthcare disparities and diversity and the importance of that in pediatrics, we’re going to be able to help even more children,” says Dr. Byrne.

The thought of filling such big shoes as a patient advocate is daunting – but Dr. Wallace’s colleagues hope that this fund will also encourage future generations to try on her behalf.  “If the fund can inspire any others to work with those patients in even a fraction of that way, it would be a success,” says Dr. Lehmann.

To make a gift to Dr. Chaniece Wallace Diversity Scholars Fund, please visit give.rileykids.org/Wallace

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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