Sir Patrick Waddell is going to make a difference.

A Public Health major specializing in Community Health Education, he’s ready to change how people think about mental illness. Not just one or two folks but entire communities. He believes it’s important to be on the front lines in churches and other community organizations where individuals often turn for help.

“There are circumstances that bring people to do something drastic,” says Patrick. “And I want to help them before they get to that point.”

And he certainly has the academic and leadership chops to do it, graduating with a 3.81 GPA. Patrick was one of the first students to receive the Spartan of Promise Award in 2014. He’s a member of three honor societies, a Dean’s List regular, and was the Dean’s Ambassador for Health and Human Services last fall. He’s quick to credit his faith for his long list of achievements. “All I’ve accomplished is because of God.”

On May 8, he accepted his diploma from a wheelchair, his constant mode of transportation since middle school. Diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 2, Patrick hasn’t walked since 6th grade. He attended regular schools, but it was tough. “I was always an outlier in the classrooms,” he says. Attending Muscular Dystrophy summer camp during adolescence was a turning point. “I realized I wasn’t alone.” Since then he’s been an outspoken advocate for himself and others.

Patrick Waddell at UNCG Graduation, May 2015

Patrick Waddell at UNCG Graduation, May 2015

Part of that advocacy can be seen in his internship with Cone Health Center for Children, where he developed a three-step game plan for patients, a set of coping strategies to help them through their depression symptoms. Not only has it eased symptoms with adolescents, but staff often comment to Patrick how it has helped them.

He’s also revamped the clinic’s resource info and created a list of website and app resources for adolescents. If that wasn’t enough, this music aficionado created a song for adolescents who experience anxiety and depression titled “Smile/So Beautiful,” recorded with lyrics sung by a church choir.

“Music connects with everyone,” says Patrick, who has created songs for friends. “I want to create encouraging, uplifting music.” And he’ll provide it in a form that connects to the younger generation. “The songs would be something that would blend in with other selections on their iPod or phone,” he says.

And how did Sir come to be part of his name? We’ll, it’s not official yet, but Patrick is in the process of getting his name changed. The title has nothing to do with ego, but everything to do with his expectations of himself. A big fan of London culture and soccer, he notes that once players achieve great success they are honored by the British monarchy. The Sir or Dame title recognizes an individual’s significant contributions to national life.

And significant contributions are what he plans to make.


Story by Mary Leigh Howell, contributor

Photography by Martin W. Kane, UNCG University Relations