Future 10 2021 – Part 1
Meet 5 of the young leaders of Brunswick County Future 10 recipients.
There is no shortage of definitions for what a great leader is. But in the simplest terms, it’s someone you want to follow. In this annual feature, we share the stories of those leading by example in our communities. Meet this year’s Future 10 under 40.
Rebecca Whiteside makes it her goal every day to see how she can help increase access to healthcare in the county. Dr. Cecilia Liu is on a mission to prove to kids that dentists aren’t scary. Rev. Lavar Marlow reminds us that investing in our youth changes all of our futures. Treanna Wilson helps women and children come to terms with the trauma of domestic abuse. Tyler Smith went from a resident in a recovery center to its Chief Operating Officer.
Nine years ago, Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce and South Brunswick Magazine introduced the first Future 10 leaders under 40. Each year since, we’ve continued to recognize 10 new leaders as part of this esteemed group, all of whom live up to the chamber’s motto of “Building Community and Supporting Business.”
This isn’t a competition, but a nomination-based search in which we invite coworkers, supervisors, employees, business owners, friends and family to recommend exceptional men and women under the age of 40 who not only contribute to the current and future success of our county with a proven commitment to excellence in their careers, but also provide inspiration and leadership for other young people.
In the following pages you’ll learn their personal stories, dreams and goals and come to see that they, like Future 10 nominees before them, are champions for their communities and committed to making a positive impact on Brunswick County.
Meet 5 of your 2021 future leaders of Brunswick County.
Becky Whiteside, Regional Manager of Specialty Clinics
Becky Whiteside decided she wanted to practice medicine during her sophomore year at East Carolina University. She applied to nursing school, earned her BSN degree and in 2007 jumped right into the fire and became an ER nurse at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Every minute in the ER is different, she says: “One minute you might see a severe trauma patient and the next, someone who is having a heart attack. I just never knew what was coming through the door.”
ER nurses are uniquely able to adapt and respond at a moment’s notice. It’s a place where they learn invaluable communication, critical thinking, creativity and leadership skills, all of which provided the foundation for her next role.
“In 2009 someone suggested that I would be a really good fit for a clinical analyst position at Novant,” Whiteside says. “I would be reviewing charts and guidelines and looking at quality metrics. I fell in love with the work and the mission of always trying to find new and better ways to provide high-quality healthcare.”
A new career path was born. Whiteside also went on to earn her master’s degree in healthcare administration.
Now a regional manager, Whiteside oversees all the specialty clinics including urology, general surgery, obstetrics, plastic surgery and orthopedics, to name a few, and also recruits physicians, analyzes operational strategies and partners with hospital leadership to ensure continual process improvements. She was even instrumental in the combined community effort of the 2020 mass vaccination site.
A native of Brunswick County, Whiteside has witnessed the progress in increasing access to healthcare in the area and wants to continue to be a part of that.
“As we think about what healthcare looks like here in five and even 10 years down the road, I hope I’m a part of that,” she says. “I don’t want our residents in this county to have to drive somewhere else for care.”
COVID-19 has made healthcare even more challenging for residents, but Whiteside urges the community “not to stop getting their regular care or putting off important healthcare decisions because they are afraid to go into the hospital or clinics. It is safe to be here.”
For her recognition as a member of this year’s Future 10, Whiteside says she is proud to be included among the other great leaders from this year and years past. She also gives credit to all the other individuals and organizations she has worked with to prove “we can all do this when we work together for the greater good.”
When she’s not at work, Whiteside enjoys the hustle and bustle of family life with her husband, Justin, their two children, eight-year-old Walker and six-year-old Maddox, and their golden retriever.
Dr. Cecilia Liu, Pediatric Dentist
Coastal Pediatric Dentistry
Dr. Cecilia Liu is on a mission to make going to the dentist fun. As a pediatric dentist, she is passionate about helping kids get started on a good oral health routine early and overcome the stigma that “going to the dentist is scary.”
“I’ve always heard people say they hate going to the dentist, and that feeling always seemed to stem from a bad childhood experience,” Liu says. “So, when I was in dental school, I realized that it didn’t have to be like that, and that’s what really steered me into pediatrics.”
Liu grew up in Winston-Salem and was a competitive gymnast all the way through college at UNC Chapel Hill, where she earned her BA in exercise sports science. Her intention was to go into sports medicine, but after graduating, she moved to Wilmington and began working for a dentist — first as an administrative assistant and then a dental assistant for three years. That’s when she decided to go to dental school at the University of Southern California (USC). After completing her Pediatric Dentistry residency, Liu relocated to Brunswick County and began practicing at Coastal Pediatric Dentistry.
Her favorite part of the job is the kids. “They’re amazing to work with,” she says. “They’ll give you that high-five at the end of the procedure. And we get to watch movies all day long like Frozen, Minions, Trolls, so I get to relive my childhood memories every day!”
It’s not just about making the dental experience fun that drives Liu.
“A lot of what we do is educating kids and their parents on the importance of excellent oral healthcare that goes beyond teeth — dental care relates to overall health,” she says. Liu can see the impact it’s starting to make. “We get patients from all over the county who sometimes drive an hour plus to see us.”
Additionally, if Liu can inspire a few of her young patients to become pediatric dentists themselves, that’s an added bonus. She is particularly passionate about women choosing a career path in dentistry. At USC she served as an ambassador and presenter for their Dental Explorers program to promote careers in dentistry to high school and college students and recent graduates.
When she is not seeing patients, Liu is an active member of the Junior League of Wilmington, where she has co-chaired committees for events to bring awareness to human trafficking in our area. She is also an outdoor enthusiast who loves to spend time with her boyfriend, Ryan, and two rescue dogs, Lamia and Nalo, exploring Brunswick County.
On being selected as one of this year’s Future 10, Liu says, “I just feel so honored and privileged. And it’s such an amazing experience to help serve the kids in this area and to be recognized for it.”
Reverend Lavar Marlow, Student Learning and Innovation Program Specialist and Youth Minister
Southeastern Community College and Pleasant View Missionary Baptist Church
Reverend Lavar Marlow lives by the same vision of the late Dr. Dallas W. Herring, the philosophical “godfather” of North Carolina’s Community College System, who said “We must take people where they are and carry them as far as they can go.” Marlow applies that advice to the young people he works with in every capacity of his life.
In academic affairs at Southeastern Community College, he collaborates with faculty and staff, but he sees his most important job as “making sure that our students are successful.” As a youth minister, “I preach, but I am most eager to just spend time with them. Working with our youth simply changes all of our futures,” Marlow says.
A native of Brunswick County, Marlow thought his career would be in law enforcement. His father, John, worked for the sheriff’s department for 24 years. “He loved public service,” Marlow says. “I thought I’d carry on his legacy. I saw myself as a judge or attorney one day.”
Marlow enrolled at Campbell University where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Social Science. In 2009 Marlow answered a call from God and went to Campbell University’s Divinity School, where he received his master’s in Christian education. But, with the notion of being an attorney still at the back of his mind, he decided to go to law school.
At the same time, both of his parents were battling serious health conditions, so in 2012 without completing his degree, he came back home to take care of them. He worked at Brunswick Community College as a part-time instructor and part-time youth minister. Sadly, both of his parents passed away in 2020. That’s when Marlow began his full time career with SCC.
For his Future 10 recognition, Marlow says he is honored and will continue to give back to the community whether it is through policy making, the community college system or just giving his time to help others “change their trajectory from going one place to the other.”
Even in Marlow’s downtime, he still contributes to his community. He’s a member of the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Council of Brunswick County, a member of the Rotary Club of Shallotte and vice moderator of Ocean View Missionary Baptist Association. In his personal time, he spends much of it with “the love of his life,” his wife, Erica.
Treanna Wilson, Children and Family Advocate
Hope Harbor Home
“I wanted to be a medical doctor,” says Treanna Wilson. “That’s what I was going to school for. Until I hit organic chemistry!” Wilson realized medicine wasn’t for her.
She had already taken several human development courses and become infatuated with learning about people’s lives from conception to death. “Studying the biological, social and cognitive development of humans was just so inspiring to me,” she says.
So, she turned in her medical textbooks and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).
In 2018, on the cusp of graduation from UNCG, Wilson was hired by Hope Harbor Home, Brunswick County’s only domestic abuse shelter, as a children and family advocate. In this position, she works directly with the families as a unit to help them come to terms with the feelings and emotions of the children and adults, connecting them with the right resources and creating safety plans.
“In a nutshell, crisis intervention,” she says. Her job is to ensure that their clients are not only fully supported in the moment, but also to guide them to a violence-free future.
Eager to increase her commitment and role within the organization, Wilson is in her second year as a clinical Master of Social Work Student at Boston University. Upon graduation, she plans to come on board as Hope Harbor Home’s first on-staff therapist, providing crisis counseling to their residents.
Crisis counseling is critical to help victims of domestic abuse sort through their thoughts, and the counselor be a listening ear, ease fears and help provide next steps. “Whether I’m talking to victims on the phone or meeting with them face-to-face, what’s most rewarding for me is to help them make those mental connections between where they used to be, what’s happening now and where they want to be,” Wilson says. “When they can make that psychoeducation connection, that’s where the healing process can really begin.”
Wilson says she extremely humbled to be part of this year’s Future 10 “by my home county.” On the impact she would like to make above and beyond Hope Harbor Home, Wilson envisions being able to provide low-cost therapy to anyone in the county who is in need.
When she isn’t working to make the lives of Brunswick County residents better, Wilson is a self-described “homebody who enjoys being at home, sitting on the porch getting fresh air, watching TV, reading or hanging out with my baby nephew.”
Tyler Smith, Chief Operating Officer
Christian Recovery Centers, Inc.
Like most successful professionals, Tyler Smith is a problem solver. To say he is motivated by a challenge is an understatement. As a former addict, Smith learned those necessary skills, which were so crucial in helping him in his own recovery journey. Today, those same skills are a big part of Tyler’s job description as the chief operating officer at the same rehabilitation center where he got sober.
“Every day is so different, which is one of the things I like about the job,” Smith says. “The other day we had a crisis intervention where we needed solutions fast. But today my job is fixing problems with the internet and printer,” he says with a laugh.
It was just six years ago when Smith was a resident at Christian Recovery Centers, Inc. (CRCI). After successfully completing the program, he says, “I had my own plan for how my life was going to go. And then, a position opened up for the admissions coordinator and something was telling me I should stick around here.”
At the time, the position didn’t pay. There were no days off. And the job was intense. But Smith trusted that something good was going to come from it. The center began to grow. A year later he was promoted to assistant director.
“I remember my first paycheck was $300. It was like the world to me,” he says. Smith then became director of operations and eventually COO.
Smith is often credited as one of the key drivers behind the growth of CRCI, in large part for his innovative and forward-thinking ideas and, of course, problem-solving skills. He is responsible for all the organization’s residential substance abuse treatment programs with four direct reports. He also trains new hires and makes sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs successfully. He’s also gone on to earn two college degrees and several certifications.
His Future 10 nomination leaves Smith feeling “humbled and honored” and in good company. His boss, Josh Torbich, the executive director of CRCI, is a Future 10 alum from 2019. “We all see how hard he works every day; he’s just pulled us in his wake,” Smith says. “To see how we’ve all developed into professionals is inspiring.”
Away from work, Smith gives his time to several nonprofits and organizations including Beach Assembly of God, Oceanside Family Counseling and Celebrate Recovery, where he is an addiction sponsor to many. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Katie, who is a photographer and a teacher, and he is nationally ranked in rifle drill and has won many state competitions.