Wesleyan Women of Distinction: Dr. Gwendolyn (Ford) Lynch ’86

Staff physician in neurology
Neurocritical care and stroke specialist
Cerebrovascular Center, Neurological Institute
Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland, Ohio

Dr. Gwen (Ford) Lynch with Dr. W.L. Magnuson and her mother, Sandra Ford Perry, at Homecoming 2017

“I dreamed of becoming a doctor from the age of 4. Wesleyan helped me realize that dream, and I am able to use the knowledge God allowed me to attain to help save people’s lives and help them regain function to return to as normal a life as possible.”

As a little girl in growing up in Canton, Ohio, Gwen Ford knew she wanted to become a doctor. When the time came to choose a college, she did her research. “Wesleyan intrigued me,” she remembered. “I needed a small campus environment and one-on-one attention, and I was impressed with the 90 percent acceptance rate to medical schools.”

Gwen and her mother made the eight-hour trip to Wesleyan for a high school visit, and her mother remarked that it sure was complicated to get to Owensboro. “There weren’t as many interstates back then, and Mother was right,” Gwen remarked. “But I knew, I absolutely knew, once we arrived, that the trip was worth it. Wesleyan was the place for me.”

The Wesleyan experience provided a firm foundation for her life and career. “Maybe the faculty and staff at Wesleyan hear this all the time, and if you do, I hope you never get tired of it,” Dr. Lynch reflected, “but I can’t imagine doing my undergrad work anywhere but Wesleyan.” She explained that the warm and hospitable atmosphere when she and her mother visited was not just a show for recruitment, but a community lifestyle. “It was easy to meet and befriend classmates, and that was a huge plus because those relationships helped me relax and focus on my course work.”

She described her studies as extremely challenging. “My sophomore year was the most difficult because I took organic (chemistry),” said Dr. Lynch, “But I welcomed the challenge, and my love for chemistry grew and grew under the guidance of Drs. Connor, Flachskam and Magnuson.”

She explained that as she grew in the classroom, she grew in her faith through the influence of an active Campus Ministries program. “I was allowed to explore my faith and encouraged to become a stronger Christian. Through Bible studies, singing with the Inspirations (a campus group) and interacting with fellow Christians on campus, I matured in my faith, and I believe that preparation helps me in my medical practice today.”

She remembered the influence of Rev. Dr. Jay Smith ’85, and his buddy, Rick Bourland ’85, a former United Methodist pastor, who were upperclassmen in theology. “We visited a lot of churches with them; they preached, and we sang. Those two were like big brothers to me. We had so much fun, and they looked out for me. Good, good memories.”

Rick Bourland described Gwen as “a beautiful, intelligent and talented woman who embraced life with faith, humility, compassion, love and purpose.” He said, “Gwen’s achievements don’t surprise me. Everything she has achieved can be credited to her faith in a loving God. We always had great fun singing, laughing and just sharing our hearts and concerns.”

Jay Smith said, “Gwen is a fabulous person, a real sweetheart, and a very bright and spiritually strong Christian. We sang together, and I have very good memories of what a delightful person she is. Gwen represents the very best of Wesleyan.”

In addition to Campus Ministries involvement, she enjoyed many student life activities and organizations. “At Wesleyan, I learned how to communicate, make decisions, handle complicated life decisions and organize to accomplish my goals,” said Dr. Lynch. “In and out of the classroom, I got preparation for life. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t overwhelming either. That would not have been the case for me in a large university setting.”

Dr. Lynch applied to and was accepted at three medical schools. She chose The Ohio State University and is grateful to Drs. Connor and Magnuson for their guidance and encouragement. She decided on neurology her second year in medical school and then completed her internship at Ohio State and her residency at Yale. She treats neurological and neurosurgical patients with conditions including brain hemorrhage, coma, out-of-control seizures, meningitis and encephalitis.

“My work is very gratifying,” says Dr. Lynch. “My patients and their families aren’t prepared for what they are dealing with. My treatment includes saying the right words to help them understand and cope. When they return to visit later, I can many times see a difference, and they say ‘thank you.’ That means everything to me.”
She advises undergraduates to keep their priorities in the right order. “Pray to the Lord first; He will guide you. Do your best to remain humble, and don’t allow distractions to crowd in. Focus on your major priorities. The Lord will help you do that.”

Dr. Lynch and her husband, Mr. Darvin Lynch, a commercial insurance underwriter, live in Green, Ohio, near Cleveland, with their daughter, Mariah, and son, Tarion John.