By the time she entered ninth grade, Fairhope native Kyla Shaw knew she wanted to pursue a career in health care.
During her time at Fairhope High School, she enrolled in medical related classes. She regularly volunteered at Thomas Hospital. At one point, she considered becoming a pediatrician. To get a feel for working with children, she volunteered with the Rotary Youth Club of Fairhope.
When looking into college, she and a friend learned of the University of Alabama’s Minority Rural Health Scholars Program. Applying to the program was the natural next step for Shaw.
Shaw graduated from Fairhope High earlier this year. Now, she’s at UA taking the next step in her journey towards a career in health care.
“I have a love for the medical field, and when I found out about this program I was like, ‘OMG, I have to do this,’” Shaw said. “I applied for the program and got in.”
For five weeks this summer, 34 students will be on the UA campus taking college courses for credit while they get firsthand experience in multiple medical fields.
“The program consists of a lot of things,” Shaw said. “Seminars. We’ve had doctors come to talk to us, like physicians, pediatricians and pharmacists. We’ve gone to UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and toured their dental school and their PA school. So, the program isn’t based on just trying to get us to come to ‘Bama, it’s coming here and learning about opportunities around you and what you can do in each medical field.”
She said students in the program learn through action. They draw blood from mannequins, learn CPR, check heart rates and more.
“I love (the program),” Shaw said. “I’m a little scared of the medical field because it’s going to be tough, I know that. But when I got here, to be able to do things hands on and learn all the things they do in the medical field, it makes me more comfortable. Being in the program I know this is definitely for me.”
According to a release, “The Minority Rural Health Scholars Program seeks to increase the number of minority students from rural Alabama who qualify for admission to medical school. The program is for high school graduates who, in addition to taking classes at UA, also are provided tutorials to enhance their knowledge and test-taking skills to achieve competitive scores on the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT.”
Ten recent graduates were selected to participate in the program this summer, while 24 recent graduates were selected to participate in the Rural Health Scholars Program.
Both programs strive to encourage rural Alabama high school students to consider healthcare related careers. The Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board funds the programs, covering students’ course tuition, housing on campus and cost of field trips. The programs are part of the college’s Rural Health Leaders Pipeline.
“This program shows, from a local standpoint, that we as rural kids can come back to our communities in the medical profession,” Shaw said. “Not all kids want to go back to their community, and for them this shows that even if they don’t, they can still find ways to help their community. Me being first-generation, this program has helped me figure out where I want to go and guided me to where I want to be.”
Shaw will be attending UAB in the fall, majoring in public health with a minor in biology. She plans to go to PA school in the future.
Where will she end up after that?
“I’m not sure yet, but my love for Fairhope is great, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I came back,” she said.
To future graduates wondering what their future holds, Shaw said one of the most important things is to not let an opportunity pass you by.
“I would say to take advantage of every opportunity that you get, and maybe look up opportunities and programs yourself,” Shaw said. “You never know what could happen if you take one chance.”