Local MSU-Meridian graduate accepted into Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program

A portrait of Emilio Suarez wearing his white coat received for the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program
Contact: Lisa Sollie

MERIDIAN, Miss.—A recent graduate of Mississippi State University-Meridian’s kinesiology program has been accepted into the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Emilio M. Luna-Suarez, a Philadelphia native, is the first student from the Meridian campus and one of nine MSU students this year named to the prestigious program.

“MSU-Meridian has prepared numerous students in clinical allied health since the inception of our kinesiology, clinical exercise physiology program four years ago,” said Terry Dale Cruse, MSU-Meridian’s administrative director and head of campus. “We celebrate the accomplishment of Emilio and are delighted our faculty prepare students for such incredible opportunities.”

Created in 2007, the MRPSP provides a means for students to earn a seat in medical school and receive mentoring during the medical school application process. Upon completion of all medical school admissions requirements, students can be admitted to the University of Mississippi School of Medicine or William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine and receive $30,000 per year for medical school.

Once students complete their medical training, they must enter a residency program in one of five primary care specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, or pediatrics.  Four years of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved, rural Mississippi community also is required.

Suarez’s interest in the medical field began during his junior year at Neshoba Central High School when he signed up for Health Occupations Students of America, known as HOSA, a national career and technical student organization.

“When I originally got involved in HOSA, I thought I wanted to become a nurse. But as I was getting ready to graduate, I changed my mind about what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” said Suarez.

While sitting in a biology class at Meridian Community College, he realized he enjoyed the subject so much that he began researching careers that had to do with the study of cells.

“I thought about exploring epidemiology or pathology. I even thought I might want to be an oncologist,” said Suarez.

Exploring all his options after graduating from MCC, he decided to enroll in MSU-Meridian’s kinesiology program located on the Riley Campus in downtown Meridian. The program’s Clinical Exercise Physiology Health Professional Pathways component prepares students for entry into careers in medicine, dental, physical and occupational therapy, among others. Attending the local campus also meant he could continue to work and save money while going to school. Suarez arranged to shadow an oncologist for several weeks at Anderson Health Systems’ Meridian Oncology Associates.

“I was very fortunate that Dr. Matt Cassell allowed me to get an in-depth look at what the practice of oncology looks like,” he said. “I liked the clinical setting, where the doctor develops a treatment plan to help a patient combat their disease.”

Concerned he wouldn’t be able to deal with the sadness that often can accompany working with cancer patients, Suarez promptly set up another job shadowing opportunity with Dr. Sunil Kumar, who specializes in family medicine with Neshoba County General Hospital in Philadelphia.

 “I realized after spending roughly 110 hours with him that family medicine is a better fit for me. I particularly loved the fact that you develop a relationship with your patients that continues throughout their lives,” Suarez said. “And family medicine is also one of the five primary care specialties that MRPSP scholars must enter in their residency program,” he added.

“Attending MSU-Meridian worked out great for me.  The people I met, and the small classroom setting gave me plenty of one-on-one time with my instructors but also interaction with the other students. As a result, we were more apt to study together and encourage each other along the way,” he said.

Suarez also was grateful for access to the Anatomage table in the Mississippi Power Anatomy Lab on MSU-Meridian’s Riley Campus, the only one of its kind in the state.

“Not only are you able to use the table to see layers and become familiar with the skeletal, nervous and muscular systems and general anatomy,” said Suarez, “but there are also hundreds of case studies I was introduced to by Laura Hilton, one of my kinesiology instructors.  I also read reports which helped me tremendously during my internship in emergency medicine this past spring with Dr. Jon Boyles at Neshoba General, as well as on my entrance exam for medical school,” he added.

A first-generation college student, Suarez is a role model for his mother as well as his younger brother who is still in high school.

“When I was in 10th grade, I encouraged my mom to go back to school and get her GED.  Now she’s working on an associate’s degree and eventually wants to get a master’s degree in psychology,” he said. “I hope our example will encourage my younger brother to just get out there and follow his dream.”

For more information on the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program or the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program, contact MRPSP Associate Director Dan Coleman at 601-815-9022 or jdcoleman@umc.edu, or visit http://mrpsp.umc.edu.

To learn more about MSU-Meridian’s kinesiology program or other degree programs available at the regional campus, visit www.meridian.msstate.edu.

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