Learning in Scrubs

A Rural Medical and Science Scholar.

Teen earns scholarship to become Rural Medical and Science Scholar

Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson

When she started school in a New York kindergarten classroom and participated in her first “dress-up day,” Bridgette “Brie” Cerda-Marin chose the doctor costume.

And, in her own words: “I’ve wanted to be a doctor ever since.”

Soon after that day, Brie’s parents, Doris Marin and Roberto Villegas, chose to move the family away from New York, and they came to Mississippi.

Now, Brie has just begun her senior year at Clarkdale High School near Enterprise, just south of Meridian in Lauderdale County. She has taken every health-science class the school offers, and she’s been named an Outstanding HOSA member by the Future Health Professionals organization.

Even as her academic accomplishments distinguish her as she prepares to apply for college, she had one of the most exciting opportunities of her young career during the summer, Brie explains.

In June, she spent 4 weeks on the Mississippi State University campus and participated in the Rural Medical and Science Scholars program, a hands-on, interactive learning experience for young people interested in pursuing health or science careers.

Participants shadow health-care professionals in clinics and hospitals, take college-level coursework to help them understand medical school’s academic rigor, and network with other dedicated students and experienced professionals to learn everything they can about the health-care profession. The teens also shadow scientists from MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Bagley College of Engineering, and College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Our community needs more doctors, and it’s important for Mississippians to stay in Mississippi and help.”

— Brie Cerda-Martin

The program, organized and delivered by the MSU Extension Service, with financial support from MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, offers teens a jump start on college and the opportunity to explore careers in health care or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, says organizer Ann Sansing, also an Extension instructor. Participants are bright and motivated rising high-school seniors.

“Brie was the recipient of a $2,400 scholarship, plus a stipend for food, that gave her an opportunity to attend the Rural Medical and Science Scholars program,” Sansing explains. “Attending would not be possible for Brie without the scholarship she received from Anderson Regional Medical Center.”

Brie explains that the student services coordinator for the school district, Heather LaCoste, approached leaders from Anderson Regional Medical Center to determine if they would be willing to sponsor Brie.

“When I got the scholarship, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I knew I was going to need the scholarship,” she remembers. “Anderson Regional Medical Center paid my whole tuition and food expenses, and they said they wanted me to enjoy the full program without having to worry about anything.”

That’s exactly what Brie did. Her favorite part of the program was shadowing doctors. Getting to see the one-on-one interactions between doctors and their patients offered her insight into how to communicate with people who need treatment, she says.

Brie also enjoyed meeting new friends, all of whom were interested in science and medicine, and she enjoyed the college-level classes, though they were quite difficult, she observes. Learning new terminology and concepts was challenging but fun.

The Rural Medical and Science Scholars program solidified Brie’s desire to pursue a health career, she says. After she completes her education, she plans to return to Lauderdale County.

“I want to go back to Meridian; I actually want to work at Anderson Regional Medical Center,” she asserts. “Our community needs more doctors, and it’s important for Mississippians to stay in Mississippi and help.”

Check out Extension’s YouTube playlist, “Rural Medical Scholars” to see Brie and other participants thank their sponsors for their support of the 2019 program.

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