Supporting A Healthier State

OSU Medical Cowboys donating time and money for pre-med students

Center for Health Sciences OSU Tulsa Medicine

As a lifelong Oklahoman, neurosurgeon Barry Pollard is completely aware of the state's shortage of healthcare professionals, especially in rural areas. Through the OSU Medical Cowboys program he founded in 2007, Pollard and more than 290 other OSU alumni have combined for $2.9 million in gifts and commitments to support the next generation of doctors, osteopaths, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, etc.

"OSU has students from all 77 counties in Oklahoma, many from rural areas in particular are attracted to OSU for their undergraduate training. It's hard to find physicians who grew up in urban areas and want to go out to various small towns and practice medical care. It's easier to find kids who grew up in that environment and want to get back to that. So we think it makes a lot of sense to help people who come from those areas and want to go back there to practice medicine." Dr. Barry Pollard, Founder of OSU Medical Cowboys

Pollard explained that important aspect of the program Jan. 31 during the annual Medical Cowboys Scholarship Event, which brings donors and students to the Stillwater campus for a celebration. Among the highlights was the announcement that there are 12 current scholarship recipients, pushing the ongoing total to 31 awardees.

These $2,500 pre-med scholarships are renewable for up to four years. Recipients must finish high school with at least a 3.75 GPA or a 27 on the ACT, and demonstrate community involvement and leadership.

One current scholar is Emmie Humphrey, a College of Human Sciences junior pursuing an honors degree in human development and family science with a pre-health option. The Choctaw native says she has been passionate about becoming a physician assistant since serving on medical mission trips in places such as Nicaragua and Kenya.

"My dream is to work with people in rural communities where healthcare is scarce and the need is great. I look forward to the day I have completed my higher education and medical training so that I can offer all that I have to those most in need." Emmie Humphrey, Medical Cowboys Scholar

Courtney Mapes is an animal-science and pre-veterinary-medicine freshman in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. She came from Alva after falling in love with her father's alma mater.

"When selecting a college, my passion for OSU, the strength of the veterinary science program and my desire to be a Cowboy solidified the decision. My major is potentially preparing me to enter veterinary school in the fall of 2019, where I have a seat saved through the early admissions program. Ultimately, my goal is to go back to rural Oklahoma, specifically in the Alva area, and open my own mixed-animal practice." Courtney Mapes, Medical Cowboys Scholar

Dr. David Russell, a retired radiologist from Enid, says Humphrey and Mapes show that a gift to the Medical Cowboys will be well spent.

"There is nothing we can give to that will make us feel as good as supporting young people who want to go out into the world and help others, and this event is unbelievably fun because the recipients are so enthusiastic. It's such a blessing to visit with them and talk about their plans for their lives." Dr. David Russell, OSU Medical Cowboys donor

The newest feature of the Medical Cowboys program is the Pre-Health Shadowing Network, which opened in February 2014. It creates a community of mentors and peers for current and future medical professionals. It provides students vital observation experiences. It is maintained through a restricted site that is accessible only to those who have completed the required HIPAA Compliance Training. It also addresses appropriate shadowing protocol, etiquette, professionalism and patient privacy.

Cathy Southwick, OSU's coordinator for pre-health programs, says few universities have such an initiative for undergrads. She says about 100 professionals are participating in the network, and about 350 students are registered, with more than 130 having completed the required training.

"They are actively utilizing the network to help build their portfolio and get the valuable shadowing that they need to fully understand the occupation they are pursuing. We are really proud of both our students and our partners, and we are always looking for new partners in this endeavor." Cathy Southwick, OSU Coordinator of Pre-Health Programs

Humphrey says OSU is providing her with the skills and tools to be successful in all areas of life, and the Medical Cowboys program is a vital part of that experience.

"OSU is truly unlike any other university," Humphrey says. "Your investment in scholarships for students goes above and beyond academics. I have been allowed to be challenged, mentored and involved because of donors like you. I am so thankful to be a part of this extraordinary Cowboy family and hope to invest in the lives of Cowboy medical scholars just as you have invested in me."

Pollard says the program has had a good start, but the group expects to do even more in the future. That includes enhancing the scholarship piece with a goal of adding 20 to 30 recipients each year, which will require more donor support as well as increased contact with high schools across the state.

"We want the brightest kids we can find," Pollard says. "We want very successful kids with leadership ability and kids that make the grades. We want kids who want to pursue a degree in medicine to come to Oklahoma State to fulfill their dreams. And by achieving our goals as an organization, we will have a great impact on the health of our state."