Rural Pediatrician Joan Templeton Perry ’79 Gives Back to Community, University, Family

News & Spotlights | July 19, 2018

Pediatrician Joan Templeton Perry ’79 loves her job because of the opportunity to teach families how to improve their lives. She loves living in the small town of Kinston, North Carolina, where she sees her patients at the grocery store and in the car next to hers at a red light. But her work is more than enjoyable; it’s immensely important. Joan works at the only pediatric clinic in a three-county area of Eastern North Carolina, an area that recently ranked as one of the poorest in the country. Seventy percent of Joan’s patients are from single-parent families. Half are overweight or obese. Most are living at or below the federal poverty line. Joan’s work is part of an effort to improve some of those numbers, one child at a time.

Joan brought this same passion with her when she served on UNC’s Board of Governors from 2013 to 2017.

“You’re bringing in something lacking, being from a rural community,” she explains. She was the only rural board member at that time. And she was excited to be there, giving back to a system that has given so much to her.

“The university system is one of the greatest assets of the state,” Joan says. “Our university system is the means by which I can hold out to my little patients the hope that they can graduate from a university with the training to do anything they want to do. I talk to my patients all the time about education.”

For Joan, the Morehead-Cain community, above all, inspired in her that same conviction. Both of her parents were from a rural background, and college was not a major part of her family history.

“The scholarship enabled me to go to the finest public university in the country, with an identity. I loved having that Morehead family. I didn’t have anyone to aspire to be like in my family, so it really gave me a home on campus.”

Joan says that, in particular, the Program imbued her with “much-needed confidence.”

“To have them continue to emphasize those four pillars completely shaped my undergrad experience. It gave me willingness to take some risks like running for senior class president, seeking learning outside the classroom, and being challenged by the question, ‘What does character really mean?’”

Though Joan was in the first class of scholars that included women, she says the milestone didn’t feel significant at the time.

“We didn’t understand that it was such a landmark event,” she says. “We were not treated differently.”

But being a woman undeniably made her Public Safety summer distinct. Joan was assigned to the Rochester Police Department along with another female scholar.

“They were not expecting women,” Joan says. “It was a very interesting summer with many funny moments.”

Joan has been a triathlete for 25 years, and she has competed at the Triathlon World Championship multiple times. Though physical vigor is one of her top values, she says that if she had to choose just one Morehead-Cain pillar as her favorite, it would be character. After all, it’s essential for any doctor who is being trusted with the sanctity of human life.

And if there’s one way Joan has built character in her adulthood, it’s the decade she has spent caring for her elderly mother at home. Joan’s SEVEN Talk was entitled “Ten Years in Adult Diapers.”

“I’ve learned a lot about me and I think I’ve learned something about life.”