From Clubhouse to Operating Room

Years before becoming a distinguished neurological surgeon, Patrick Kelly joined the Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora, N.Y., seeking refuge from a chaotic home life. There, he found friends and role models, particularly then-Club director H. Kenneth Whitney, who taught him compassion, courtesy and respect.

Fondly known as Whit, the director was a big bear of a man who didn't tolerate unruly behavior, foul language or disrespect, but clearly loved being around children. At age 11, young Patrick witnessed two friends fighting at the Club and fully expected Whit to expel them from the Club. Instead, Whit stopped the fighting by hugging the boys. His gesture was full of genuine affection and left both boys in tears, stopping the fight and leaving them shaking hands. 

Whit's response of kindness, respect and understanding had a lasting effect on Kelly, who followed Whit's example in his professional life when mentoring young medical residents.

The only person in his family to finish high school, Kelly joined the Navy during his final year of medical school, requesting assignment to a surgical unit in Vietnam. Dr. Kelly’s numerous honors include the prestigious Van Wagenen fellowship from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and his appointment as chair of New York University’s department of neurology. To recognize his outstanding achievements, Boys & Girls Clubs of America inducted Kelly into its distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame in 2001. 

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