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UM, UMMC engage young students at Delta career fair

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Kirkpatrick Elementary students Zian Sims (right), Brian McCray and Desiree Strong learn the importance of pharmacy while participating in a mock pill-counting demonstration.


tudents and faculty from the University of Mississippi and University of Mississippi Medical Center did their part to inspire elementary students last week at a medical career fair in Clarksdale.

“We are embarking on a bit of an adventure by [going] to Clarksdale for this event,” said Robin Rockhold, deputy chief academic officer for UMMC. “I see this as the start of a brand new era in education orientation for health care. The mission of the medical center is to improve health for all Mississippians – we’re just starting a little bit earlier than we have in the past.”

Held at Kirkpatrick Elementary, the inaugural fair was designed to expose students to a variety of health care professions. The schools of Health Related Professions, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Medicine and Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences were represented.

“I hope that by participating in this event, our students receive a bird’s eye view of what it would take to actually pursue a career in health or medicine,” said Rasheda Barksdale, magnet resource coach for Kirkpatrick. “Oftentimes, our students only think of family medical practitioners when they think of health and medicine, but I want them to know about other disciplines that fall under this umbrella. I also want our youth to see that a goal of a career in health and medicine is attainable as long as they work hard and stay focused.”

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First-year professional pharmacy student Khyati Ganatra (right) teaches students about pharmacy.

Clarksdale’s school district recently received a federal grant to aid with education, an outcome of which was a reconfiguration of its schools into academies. Kirkpatrick Elementary was reorganized into a magnet school with a theme of health and medical science. The school’s goal is to emphasize careers in the health care field while also teaching the students about personal health and well-being.

“It is so important for us to provide this type of outreach to children in Mississippi — especially in the Delta,” said Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice. “Many of them have not considered a career in health care and may not be familiar with the different options available to them. We are excited to teach them about what pharmacy has to offer.”

Meredith Oliver, a first-year professional pharmacy student from Collierville, Tennessee, said it is important to help young students understand what pharmacy and other health care professions are all about.

“If we can inspire just one student to think ‘Wow, this is what I want to do,’ then this is all worth it,” Oliver said.

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