ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

Page 26


Through the MSU Extension Service’s Rural Medical and Science Scholars program, high school students explore health and science careers through an immersive, hands-on experience. Annually, 15-25 rising high school seniors from Mississippi are selected for the program based on academic achievement, ACT scores and STEM interest. It has produced 459 scholars in its 24-year history. David Buys, an Extension state health specialist and an associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, says the rural scholars’ program is an important step in minding the rural health care gap. “The program aims to address Mississippi’s overwhelming need for health care providers in rural

live on campus. Scholars engage in activities across the university spending time in the College of Veterinary Medicine, the agricultural and biological engineering and poultry science departments, the Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory, the MSU Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Shackouls Honors College. They also interact with admissions and the Dr. A. Randle and Marilyn W. White Health Professions Resource Center. Ann Sansing, an Extension instructor, has been with the program for 15 years, serving as its director since 2016. “Observing the scholars in their academic and personal growth and watching them gain clarity about a future career is extremely rewarding,” she said. “The most meaningful aspect is to see the relationships built and networking among scholars, program staff, faculty and industry professionals. These relationships give

“I REALIZE FAMILIES SOMETIMES STRUGGLE TO FIND RESOURCES. MISSISSIPPI NEEDS SEAMLESS STRUCTURES IN PLACE, SO PARENTS CAN ACCESS RESOURCES WITHOUT FRUSTRATION.” ~ CONNIE BAIRD-THOMAS areas,” Buys explained. “Mississippi is one of the most medically underserved states in the nation, with the lowest number of physicians per capita.” Buys said of the 459 participants, 13% are attending or have graduated from medical school. About 40% have pursued overtly health-related careers, while approximately 70% overall have engaged in STEM-related careers. “We broadened the name to Rural Medical and Science Scholars, and tell students there is no pressure to go into medicine,” he said. “We foster an exploratory mindset and count it a success if students realize through this program that medicine isn’t for them. It’s better to learn now before you’ve invested college tuition in pre-med courses.” Buys said the program embodies MSU’s land-grant mission. “This program bridges our service and academic missions by bringing youth in through 4-H and Extension and giving them a chance to earn college credit. We’re also generating scholarly output, publishing papers and engaging students in scholarly activity which fulfills the university’s research mission, too,” he said. “This program is recognized nationally. It is novel for the rest of the country, but not new for us.” Students take a health science college-level course earning three credit hours. They also participate in observational and experiential learning activities, tour the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, earn Junior Master Wellness Volunteer certification, and


S PR ING 2022

scholars the confidence and motivation to pursue their dreams while helping them decide if a health or STEM career is right for them.”


CAVS Extension equips Mississippi’s health care workers with strategies to improve lives and outcomes. Using the Lean model, a business philosophy that eliminates waste and maximizes efficiency, the CAVS-E Healthcare Lean Certificate program has helped hundreds of health care professionals across Mississippi over the past decade. The program now reaches rural medical centers at no cost thanks to a recent Delta BroadReach Healthcare grant. “Participants learn to plan and launch initiatives that transform health care delivery within their organizations,” said John Moore, senior engineer, who founded the program with Susan Moore, who serves as project coordinator. Classes include administrators, clinicians and support staff. Each participant identifies a workplace problem and designs a solution. “We’ve seen remarkable accomplishments in participants’ projects, which contributed to millions of dollars saved and significant quality and care improvements,” he said. “Great leadership and knowledge occur at all levels of an organization but often these individuals don’t have the power to make change happen. They suffer with inefficiencies and