Childhood Experiences Drive Career Aspirations

Aug. 1, 2016

BCBS scholarship recipient Andrea Murrell.

Minority scholars entering medical fields will help foster inclusion and address healthcare disparities

Andrea Murrell is studying to become a nurse because of the many times she has gotten to experience their compassion while growing up in Memphis.

She had surgery at the age of 10, and her father, who has sickle cell disease, was often under the care of nurses.

“My dad said he has seen his share of doctors, but it is the nurses who are memorable,” Murrell says.

“I want to become that memorable nurse who makes a child feel comfortable.”

Murrell says when she was in the hospital, she watched the nurses work and was fascinated.

“My surgery sparked my interest of how the body works, and even though I was extremely scared and nervous, I was curious about every aspect of the process. My nurses were amazed that a child understood the medical lingo,” says Murrell, who is now a nursing student at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She plans to attend graduate school and become a nurse practitioner.

Murrell is one of three 2016 BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Diversity Scholarship winners, who earned $10,000 scholarships to help them toward a career in health care.

Fellow Memphis resident and BlueCross Diversity Scholar, Myah Mukes, is also studying to be a nurse and is attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Mukes says she, too, was inspired at a young age to become a nurse.

She has watched family members suffer with physical and behavioral health issues, and nurses were on the front line of their care.

2016 BlueCross Diversity Scholar, Myah Mukes

2016 BlueCross Diversity Scholar, Myah Mukes

“Nurses are who you see the most and who take care of you, Mukes says. Nurses are so vital in the hospital and clinics.”

After graduation, she wants to work as a traveling nurse and see other areas, before deciding where to settle down.

Supporting doctors and patients behind the scenes

Ciara Taylor, who grew up in Chattanooga and is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University, appreciates the hands-on patient care her fellow 2016 BlueCross Diversity Scholars are eager to give.

But she wants to help doctors and nurses help patients by working in a lab.

Providing diagnostic test results is how she sees herself contributing to patient care.

“I have always loved science with a passion but never wanted to limit myself to just one area,” Taylor says.

In medical labs, the tests she will conduct use chemistry, biology and more.

“I want to help people, but just in a different way, in the background, working with doctors and nurses,” Taylor says.

Andrea Murrell, pictured in her labcoat in the laboratory, is one of three 2016 BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Diversity Scholarship winners

2016 BlueCross Diversity Scholar, Ciara Taylor

Seeking to mitigate healthcare disparities

The scholarships awarded to Murrell, Mukes and Taylor recognize outstanding achievements in community service, leadership and academics.

They are given to minority undergraduate students who wish to pursue careers in the healthcare field.

The scholarships do more than just reward deserving students — They also are part of a long-term solution to reducing healthcare disparities in the state.

Studies suggest African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and other minority populations remain underrepresented as medical professionals relative to their numbers in the general population.

Many of these same minority groups also display disparities in their health status compared to the rest of the population.

For example, African Americans suffer higher rates of high blood pressure than the overall population.

BlueCross leaders say increasing the numbers of healthcare professionals from these minority populations will play a role in decreasing healthcare disparities in those groups.

BlueCross works with the Memphis chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE), whose members help spread the word about the scholarships and then vet the applications.

BlueCross Chief of Staff Calvin Anderson (left) and Chief Executive Officer JD Hickey (right) with the 2016 diversity scholarship recipients.

From left: BlueCross Chief of Staff Calvin Anderson; 2016 diversity scholarship recipients Andrea Murrell, Myah Mukes and Ciara Taylor; BlueCross Chief Executive Officer JD Hickey

Former scholar serving with gratitude

Mario Lopez-Rodriquez, a 2014 BlueCross Diversity Scholar, completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing and is now working at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

“The funds from this scholarship helped to pay for housing, textbooks, and many of the costs associated with nursing school,” he wrote in a recent email to BlueCross and NAHSE leaders.

“It gives me great joy to know that there are organizations with people such as yourself, who are willing to invest in students like me.”