Gift Develops Talent at the Brady

September 29, 2023 by Sara Falligant

The Stephanie Walker and Allen Forney Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery Fellowship honors nurse and OR tech

During his two years as a fellow at the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, Kevin Koo, MD, MPH, would look to operating room technician Allen Forney for a reassuring nod during surgery. If a case wasn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, Koo would turn to surgical nurse Stephanie Walker for comfort and the courage to keep going.

hopkins nurse stephanie walker and or tech allen forney stand with a sign
Stephanie Walker (left) says having the fellowship, which is focused on minimally invasive surgery, named for her and Allen Forney (right) is an honor that she hopes other nurses and OR techs will feel. “It’s validated our work, and it’s very special,” she says.

“Although I had expected to benefit from world-class care and teaching at the Brady, one of the aspects I hadn’t anticipated was how transformative the experience of working in the operating room with Stephanie Walker and Allen Forney would be,” says Koo, an associate professor of urology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. “I consider it an honor to have been trained, mentored, shaped, and influenced by them.”

In June 2023, the Brady celebrated Walker, Forney, and all the operating room staff at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the naming of a newly endowed fellowship — The Stephanie Walker and Allen Forney Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery Fellowship. The post-residency program at the Brady provides experience and training in minimally invasive surgical approaches in urology, which employ scopes, lasers, and other technologies.

Jakurski Family Director of the Brady Urological Institute Mohamad Allaf says the fellowship, now supported by philanthropy, has produced some of the major leaders in academic urology.

“Here at Hopkins, we were pioneers in that revolution, which has now permeated all of medicine,” explains Mohamad Allaf, Engr ’96, Med ’00 (MD), Jakurski Family Director of the Brady and urologist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. “Before, if you donated a kidney to a loved one, you’d get a big shark bite incision on your flank. With laparoscopic surgeries, there are smaller incisions. There’s a faster recovery, less pain. And what that translates to is more people coming forward to donate.”

Though the Brady has hosted a fellowship in minimally invasive and robotic surgery for more than two decades, a recent gift from an anonymous donor now provides a perpetual source of funding for the two-year training opportunity. Educational programs, like fellowships, aren’t revenue-generating initiatives, and training modalities using surgical simulations and models are expensive, Allaf says. Securing funding can be a scramble.

“Now we can concentrate on the actual education,” he says. “The endowment gives us the security to be able to create this pipeline of talented individuals and enables us to plan and budget for multiple years, which allows us to have great vision to do innovative things.”

inaugural walker forney fellow urologist chloe michel
Naval urologist Chloe Michel, the inaugural Walker-Forney fellow, will focus her training on holmium laser enucleation of the prostate, or HoLEP.

Chloe Michel, MD, an endourologist for the U.S. Navy, is the inaugural Walker-Forney fellow. Her focus is on holmium laser enucleation of the prostate, or HoLEP, which is becoming the gold standard for enlarged prostate surgery.

“It’s a very technical procedure, so I’m excited to have an opportunity to learn it in fellowship and be able to offer that to my patients,” she says.

Michel adds that nurses and techs like Walker and Forney have been formative in her training, often as much as attending physicians. They offer insight, tips, and tricks learned from years of experience.

“Developing that rapport with your OR staff is also just invaluable to making sure that you’re creating a safe and comfortable environment for everybody to work in,” she says.

For Walker, who retired from Hopkins in 2021, building relationships with the fellows was one of the most rewarding parts of her career. The work was collegial — everyone helped clean rooms, ready the OR, and sterilize equipment.

former brady robotic surgery fellow kevin koo
Now an associate professor of urology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, Kevin Koo worked closely with Stephanie Walker and Allen Forney as a fellow at the Brady.

“We had so many fellows, and we knew all of them,” she says of her and Forney, who still works with the trainees. “I would teach the equipment, the positioning, the room setup. Allen knew the anatomy inside and out. He could walk them through the surgery.”

Learning the fellowship would be named in their honor was an unbelievable honor, Walker adds. And while it recognizes Walker’s and Forney’s impact on the program, Allaf says it’s also a greater gesture of appreciation for all the Brady’s nurses and technicians who have helped elevate Johns Hopkins to one of the world’s preeminent institutions in medical education and care.

Reflecting on his own medical education, Koo says his experience with Walker and Forney is not unique. The two have spent their careers building a legacy of servant leadership at the Brady.

“It’s not just about having the technical skills to be a surgeon or the clinical know-how to make the best decision,” Koo says. “It’s about being the best operating room leader and teacher that you can be. I can’t think of better examples of leadership than Stephanie Walker and Allen Forney.”

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Topics: Faculty and Staff, Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Students, Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Brady Urological Institute, Promote and Protect Health, Support Scholars