Where You Are

A man, woman, and child standing outside, smiling in front of a building.

Dr. Caleb Zumbro returned to Franklin County to raise his family and practice medicine.

Practicing at Home

Extension’s Rural Medical and Science Scholars program changes volunteer’s life trajectory 

Written by Leah Barbour • Photo by Kevin Hudson

He had always been very good at math and science in school, and when Caleb Zumbro earned the chance to study chemical engineering at Mississippi State University, the young man from Franklin County was excited to move away from Mississippi’s Pine Hills.

During his junior year at MSU, Zumbro began to realize that, as a chemical engineer, he would spend much of his professional career at a computer or on a phone. Over that summer, he worked as a summer camp counselor at a vacation Bible school in Texas, where he got the chance to teach children with special needs.

“That’s when I got the idea to help kids with medical problems,” Zumbro explains. “That summer camp made me realize I wanted to do something with kids, and I stayed at Mississippi State a fifth year to complete the pre-med prerequisite courses.

“I volunteered to be a counselor for the RMSS program before that fifth year in the summer of 2011, in 2012 after I graduated, and in 2013, the summer after graduate school at Mississippi College. Rural Medical and Science Scholars showed me I wanted to practice in a small town. So, I came back home.”

Rural Medical and Science Scholars, overseen by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, is a program for rising high school seniors who, for 2 weeks over the summer, live on MSU’s Starkville campus, take college-level health science courses, and shadow local doctors.

The program helps teens decide if health careers are right for them and shows them the need for physicians in rural communities.

During Zumbro’s 3 years of serving as a camp counselor, he was a role model for the students he oversaw.

“I enjoyed being able to help others who were on the same path as me and telling them my story,” he remembers. “They were deciding what they wanted to do with their lives, what classes they would take, and I was helping them make those decisions. Everyone had a unique background, and I liked helping them.”

Zumbro recently completed his studies at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and his residency, and he is now a medical doctor specializing in internal medicine and pediatrics. Zumbro says he appreciates the opportunity to move home and bring his expanding family, including his wife, Bonnie, and daughter, 15-month-old Amelia Grace, back to Bude, the town where he grew up.

“It’s good to be back here. I’m having to relearn faces and names, and it’s been a lot of fun. Half of my patients are related to me or my wife, who’s from Woodville,” Zumbro laughs. “I enjoy it. I love being in the clinic and making at least a part of my patients’ lives better. It feels good to make something better.

“That’s the fun thing about RMSS: It shows kids that there are more employment opportunities than being a farmer or logger in rural Mississippi, and they can live here and improve our way of life. We all want to better our hometowns, see our businesses succeed, and have our schools perform well. I’m giving back to the community that gave me so much.”

Rural Medical and Science Scholars is making a difference all over Mississippi; check out our Instagram feed at msu_rms.

Video by Michaela Parker

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