College Degree Gives Alumni the Needed Edge to Open New Business

MOUNT OLIVE – University of Mount Olive alumni Kennedy Gray of Rocky Mount and Marlena Denise Smith of Warsaw are putting their recently earned college degrees to good use.  The former classmates have opened Nash Street Healthcare, an urgent care medical center located in Wilson, NC that provides walk-in services for patients. They offer their clients flexible hours, shorter wait times and in most cases cheaper healthcare.
Smith and Gray, who graduated in August, credit the Healthcare Management program at University of Mount Olive for providing them with the knowledge and connections needed to operate the business. “I had previously tried my hand at entering the health care world, but was unsuccessful because I did not have the credentials to run an organization,” said Gray, a 43 year-old father of three. “University of Mount Olive provided the absolute best scenario for me as a working adult and entrepreneur.”
Through the MOC Healthcare Management program students are required to do a senior thesis project.  For his project Gray chose to research retail health clinics.  “When I completed the project, I realized that I knew a great deal about retail health care so I pursued opening a clinic.”
Gray found a family nurse practitioner, partnered with a classmate Marlena Smith and opened Nash Street Healthcare.  A retired first sergeant with 22 years in the United States Air Force, Gray’s primary focus is patient satisfaction and lower cost to consumers. As a member of Urgent
Care Centers of America, he is committed to professional standards and “Best Practices” in the industry as a healthcare manager. “As chief executive officer for Nash Street Healthcare I know that the culture of our organization is paramount to our success.  So, strategic planning and measureable goals are of the upmost importance to me. MOC Professor Dr. Bankole Olatosi taught us to continue to relook and reevaluate systems for improvement. As CEO I see that these elements are critical to our success.”
Gray’s classmate Marlena Smith did her thesis on electronic medical record systems.  “The more Kennedy and I exchanged information, the more we envisioned opening a health care facility,” she said.  Smith serves as the chief operations officer of the business.  She is responsible for all aspects of medical office operations, including billing, coding and collections, appointment scheduling, electronic medical record system, and providing necessary personnel to accomplish the goals and mission of the company.
“The Health Care Management program at University of Mount Olive was the perfect fit for me,” Smith said.  “After working in the healthcare field for over 10 years, I knew the demand for nurses was high.  However, with my financial obligations, I could not afford to lose my full-time job to attend nursing school during the day.  I already had two associate degrees under my belt.  Therefore, I wanted to reach higher grounds with a bachelor’s degree.  I saw a billboard for University of Mount Olive.  After doing an on-line application, I set my mark on learning the business side of the medical profession.  That was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
The 35 year-old single mother, is now pursuing her master’s degree in public health.  “University of Mount Olive definitely transformed my life!  It allowed me to achieve my long-awaited goal of obtaining a four-year degree, starting my own business, and affirming I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
Gray and Smith have accomplished more than they ever thought possible, and now with their degrees in hand and the successful opening of their first business venture, the duo already has big plans for future opportunities.  “We want to open new facilities all over North Carolina,” explained Gray. “We want to be the standard for urgent care delivery.”
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville. For more information, visit