Congratulations to the 2021 class of Mississippi INBRE Service Scholars (MISS)! This year’s class is known as the “21 Jewels,” not only because the group numbered 21 scholars in the year 2021, but because of their exceptional performance in the face of adversity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MISS is a paid summer internship program for undergraduate students led by MISS Director Dr. Edna S. Lampkin and her staff at My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. (MBK), our sister organization. It begins in late May and concludes in late July each year. The MISS scholars spend their first two weeks in Jackson, MS for training. The scholars are trained to be public health educators and service providers. This includes CPR certification, an overview of public health, and professional development courses to teach effective listening skills and interpersonal communication skills.

After the training period, the MISS scholars are then assigned to various MBK centers throughout the state to receive on-the-job training. At the same time, the scholars work on abstracts concerning a public health topic they’re passionate about. Research posters are then created and presented by the scholars at various symposia and conferences. This year, the scholars presented at the inaugural Mississippi Health Disparities Conference 2021, a conference hosted by Mississippi INBRE on August 4, 2021.

Dr. Edna Lampkin, director of MISS, says this year’s class of scholars taught their staff nearly as much as they taught them.

“I called them my 21 Jewels. I thought it was unique, because each one of these students taught me something to take further not only into my life, but my team and everyone else,” said Dr. Lampkin.

One example is the method the scholars used to conduct community outreach. Due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the scholars couldn’t interact with the community in-person. Undeterred, they reached out using social media instead, and this turned out to be a big success.

Dr. Lampkin stated, “Figuring out a creative way to still transport information effectively is, to me, the ultimate goal that we were able to master during the pandemic.”

However, as referenced by the name, the key concept that the MISS scholars are taught each year is the value of service. My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. and Open Arms Healthcare Center are dedicated to creating a culture of wellness by not only reducing health disparities but increasing access to quality equitable healthcare and health education.

“What sets MISS apart is the service aspect. The ultimate strategy is sustainability. We help our students to understand you’re giving service to all mankind, and it really doesn’t matter the background. If you’re giving the best service that you can give, no matter if you’re in public health, a medical doctor, or working in insurance, then that’s going to be reciprocated and that’s going to be a great start down the line. We do service in every aspect of the community: to prepare to prevent all disparities by receiving vaccines, wearing condoms, considering PrEP, knowing our numbers, practicing family planning, having health insurance, following medical facts instead of social myths and maintaining a healthy relationship with their healthcare team.” Dr. Lampkin explained.

Not only does MISS prepare its scholars for a career in the medical industry after graduation, but it teaches that the ultimate goal is to create healthier Mississippi communities.

“If we were to go into our careers and just do our career, that would just be our career. But it’s also our job to educate our community and get our community involved. The work doesn’t just stop with getting a career. It’s a continuous work with your community and learning how to advocate for it,” said Dr. Lampkin.

A career in healthcare would be nothing without creating a positive impact on the community, and the 2021 class of Mississippi INBRE Service Scholars was taught this from day one. Innovative, community-oriented, and determined- the 21 Jewels are well prepared to serve Mississippi’s communities as the next generation of health professionals.

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

For more information about MISS and the application process for 2022, click here.