Join us in celebrating the 2021 class of Mississippi INBRE Outreach Scholars. This year’s class concluded the summer in an exceptional way- demonstrating strength, determination, and academic excellence despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The scholars’ key achievement was presenting their research posters at the inaugural Mississippi Health Disparities 2021 conference. They spent the entire summer with Dr. Jennifer L. Lemacks and her team at the Telenutrition Center preparing for this historic event. These research posters allow MIOS students to take their first steps into the world of data-driven research.

To begin, the scholars formulated their own hypothesis relating to chronic diseases or COVID-19 and preventive behaviors. Next, they conducted surveys to dig deeper into the topic. The data from these surveys was collected, analyzed, and transformed into their research story. Finally, the students submitted abstracts and created research posters to present their findings at the conference.

“It aligned to the T what I was looking for in a research opportunity,” says Kaitlyn Taylor, a senior kinesiology major at The University of Southern Mississippi, “The administration does a great job of working hands-on with us to make sure that our research is done correctly while also showcasing our individual talents.”

The MIOS scholars also went out into the community to teach locals about nutrition. This was cited by many of the students to be one of their favorite aspects of the program.

“My favorite memory has been the outreach events. Specifically, we went to Live at Five in Downtown Hattiesburg. Really just getting to go out there, getting to know my colleagues better in a more relaxed setting, and really connecting to Mississippi individuals to see what they do understand about health guidelines and what we can help teach them was a very rewarding experience,” stated Joshua Gallagher, a pre-med student who graduated from USM with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.

Community outreach about nutrition is extremely important in the process of creating a healthier Mississippi. Many of our underserved communities simply don’t have access to information about how to live a healthy lifestyle, and especially not the specialized research our outreach scholars have conducted this year. Ozzie Willis, a University of Oklahoma grad with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, knows this better than anyone.

“When you show them everything they’ve been missing out on, you can see it click in their head like ‘Oh, I know this now. How can I go about bettering my health with the information that’s been given to me?’ says Willis.

And of course, friends and connections were made along the way. Jalen Payton, a junior biomedical sciences major at USM, thinks this made a major difference between MIOS and other programs he’s been part of.

Payton stated, “My favorite aspect about MIOS is not just doing your research project, but also connecting with other people. We bond with each other. It’s like we have our own MIOS family.”

Most importantly, this year’s class of MIOS scholars is more than ready for a future career in the medical field.

“One of the most important things medical schools are looking for are well-rounded students. They want to see that people can succeed academically, help with research opportunities, and more importantly, show that we are culturally competent. There’s no better experience in anything I’ve found that even compares to MIOS,” Joshua Gallagher says.

When asked what each had to say to students thinking about doing the program, the majority only had this to say: do it.

For more information about the MIOS summer internship program click here.

Photos from this year’s MIOS program can be viewed here.