MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — “My mom found it first….I don’t know how.”
What Andrew Michael’s mother found was a way to help him and his brother become physicians through a program at Middle Tennessee State University.
“So my brother came here,” said Michael. “He went through the same program.”
The Medical School Early Acceptance Program partners with Meharry Medical College to help students become trained physicians who will then go on to work in rural parts of Tennessee.
“Being from Egypt, my family back home we’re not the most wealthy,” said Michael. “But being from there allowed me to appreciate having the healthcare that I have here. Finding a program that wants to give back to those communities similar to where I came from was gold to me.”
Michael and his brother are just a handful of students going through the program which launched back in 2019.
“One of the benefits is we’re able to shrink the amount of time students spend at MTSU, (and) get them to Meharry faster so they can complete their medical training and then out into the real world where they can really really help,” said Eric Miller.
Miller is an advising manager at MTSU, and said their selling point for the program is scholarships.
“If we can take this financial piece aside a little bit, I think that’s a big benefit to the program and something students can look forward to if they come here,” he said.
State Sen. Shane Reeves (R-District 14) said more money is coming.
“The funding was going to run out, so I went back and said, ‘I can’t let this happen. We need to make sure we continue to fund this program,'” he said.
Reeves was able to secure $2 million from the state to continue providing scholarships for students in this program.
Once students complete the seven-year program, they will commit to six years of serving in a rural or underserved area of the state.
“Not having to worry about trying to pay back a lot of medical school debt or the usual medical school debt I think goes a very long way for getting folks interested in coming and serving,” said Dr. Theodora Pinnock.
Pinnock is the associate dean for Student Affairs and Admissions at Meharry and said more money will help them attract more students from rural and diverse backgrounds.
“It is really hard to recruit people that are not in the rural areas or from those rural areas to go back and meet that need….definitely Tennessee needs that,” she said.
While that’s a pretty attractive incentive, Michael is more excited to be in a community that will benefit from his service.
“I want to be able to help those that are kind of scared of the doctor,” he said. “I want to be that doctor that’s cool, chill, (and) funny. I want to crack the smiles on the patients. I want to make them feel at home and at ease.”
Reeves said during next session, he is going to work to get more recurring funds that will hopefully provide more permanent funding for scholarships within the program.
You can learn more about the program here.