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GBA Alumni Spotlights
Enjoy the Bio's of our Alumni Spotlights


Jenni Oates Combines Entrepreneurship/Ministry

After graduating from Grace in 1999, Jenni (Blesch) Oates played soccer at Liberty University where she later graduated with a degree in Youth Ministry.  With her husband and best friend, Nathan, she has founded two companies; Healthy Oates,Inc. and

Jenni focuses on developing leaders as well as coaching people to better health, fitness, parenting and marriages.  She has written a book, 5 Alive, and enjoys creating life-changing tools and resources that promote health and freedom in body, soul and spirit.

Living just outside Nashville, Jenni and Nathan have four children.  In 2006 their son, Hosea Nathan, unexpectedly went to heaven. This event was a ‘marker moment’ that drastically reshaped their lives.  The mission for both their family and businesses is to equip others to “redeem the time” by stewarding their bodies well, loving their families effectively and learning to walk in the freedom Christ has given us.

Dr. Sarah Payne-Poff Provides Rare Medical Service

Grace Academy graduate Dr. Sarah Payne-Poff (’97) is one of less than 300 practicing, board-certified pediatric rheumatologists in the United States. So says FOCUS on Pediatrics Magazine, a publication of the Greenville (S.C.) Health System (Spring 2015, Vol. 27.1).The fact that there are almost 300,000 children below the age of 18 suffering with rheumatic conditions only serves to highlight the significance of Dr. Payne-Poff’s work. “A lot of people don’t realize that kids have arthritis,” Dr. Payn-Poff stated. “But it’s very common-it’s actually thought to be more common than pediatric diabetes.”Further complicating the size of the challenge is the difficulty in diagnosis. “In rheumatology, you have to get comfortable with the unknown and the undefined, because most things that we deal with don’t have a single test that makes a definite diagnosis,” Dr. Payne-Poff observed. “It can take a while of watching and waiting and putting things together to make a definite diagnosis.”According to other statistics quoted in the article, there are 11 states that have no board-certified clinicians working in this field. Consequently, the average distance a patient must travel to see a pediatric rheumatologist is 60 miles.Dr. Payne-Poff works at the Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health Care System, making Greenville County one of less than 200 counties in the nation to offer such services.(Reprinted with permission of FOCUS on Pediatrics Magazine, a publication of the Greenville Health System)



Grace Alum Hodges at Center for Disease Control

Erin Hodges attended Grace Academy from kindergarten through her graduation in 2002.  After earning her undergraduate degree in biology at UTC, she then went on to earn a Ph.D. in microbiology from Boston University where she specialized in the study of viruses. 

Today Hodges is a virologist working on influenza viruses for Carter Consulting at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Her current work at CDC helps doctors understand what influenza viruses are spreading and whether or not current antiviral drugs will work to treat them. 

After first discovering her love for science in Mrs. Petty's middle school science classes, Erin was encouraged to keep learning and asking questions by her teachers at Grace.  During graduate school, Erin developed an interest in viruses that she has has been pursuing ever since.  She hopes that her work as a scientist will lead to fewer sick days and more time to learn about the world around us.

Hunter King Pursues Ph.D at UTK

After graduating from Grace Baptist Academy in 2011, Hunter King attended the University of Memphis where he was named one of the “Young Guns” in research.  His research led the university to say that he is, “one of the smart, young scientists that might just change the world one day”.  King developed a protocol and designed a lab based, electromechanical sensor that will be used for testing patient samples in upcoming clinical trials.

Upon his graduation from the University of Memphis, Hunter was accepted into the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in 2015.  He is currently pursuing M.D. and Ph.D.degrees.  King has completed his pre-clinical coursework and is transitioning to the research phase for his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, specifically tissue engineering.

Hunter’s strong enthusiasm for research is driven by a mixture of curiosity and compassion.   Through research and development, he believes that he can improve patient outcomes world-wide.  King says, “I hope that I will be able to develop new kinds of medical technologies to improve the lives of more people than I can personally help through clinical practice alone.”