For Mildred Moreland, going to college in 1978 to study nursing was the best way to meet her two biggest goals in life: to help others and to provide for her four children.
“I was part of the second graduating class in nursing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga,” Moreland says.
Today — 37 years later — Moreland is retired. Her granddaughter Savannah Clay is studying nursing at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
“My grandmother is definitely my inspiration,” Clay says.
Studying the problems, finding the solutions
Clay recently earned a $10,000 diversity scholarship from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Community Trust, as did Bola Soliman and Anania Woldetensaye, two aspiring doctors from the Antioch area of metro Nashville. All three could be part of the solution to the problem of health care disparities seen in minority populations.
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-American and Hispanic children in Tennessee lag far behind in receiving their recommended immunizations.
Clay saw those disparities growing up in Chattanooga and wants to see them disappear.
“What I really want to do is give back, continue doing health fairs and bringing services into communities that don’t always have them,” Clay says. She’s already doing that, again because of inspiration from her grandmother.
Moreland is working against health disparities in Chattanooga by using her nursing background to volunteer for East Chattanooga Improvement, Inc., which focuses on increasing access to health care and improving fitness and well-being in the community. Her granddaughter has joined her working for the group.
“I’m retired now, but I can still use my nursing skills to help others, so I do,” Moreland says.
Next-generation doctors blend global perspectives, local ties
Soliman and Woldetensaye represent the present and future of Antioch, an area known for its rich blend of cultures created by the immigrants who have settled there.
Both aspiring physicians have deep family ties in Nashville, along with Egypt and Ethiopia respectively. After growing up in Antioch, they hope to practice medicine and give back to their community, right here in Tennessee.
“There is a doctor in Eqypt, Dr. Magdi Yacoub, and he treats heart patients surgically for free,” says says Soliman, a junior majoring in biochemistry at Lipscomb University. “He just recently opened a hospital where he treats people for free and that’s something I would like to do in the future.”
The scholarships awarded to Soliman and Woldetensaye 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.
“This is kind of filling in the need that I had in school,” said Woldetensaye, a junior majoring in biochemistry at Rhodes College in Memphis. “I would have had to take out a loan, and building up debt would have been a burden for me.”