Mississippi INBRE Outreach Scholar (MIOS) Dakota Kilcrease recently won the Overall Best Poster award in the research poster competition at Mississippi IDeA/EPSCoR Conference 2022 in late July. We interviewed Kilcrease about his summer research experience. From Powderly, Texas, Kilcrease is a 29-year-old OMS-II student at the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg, Miss. His research project, titled “The Power of Green: Examining Nature’s Influence on Vegetable & Fruit Consumption Amongst Mississippi Adults,” studied the relationship between time spent in nature and the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed by Mississippi adults.

  • Why did you choose the MIOS program? 
    • Kilcrease: “I wanted to find a summer program that would further my research interests and could complement my future career as a physician. I was interested in learning more about health disparities as they relate to the medical field, and MIOS helped me achieve those goals. It was the perfect research program for everything I wanted to accomplish this summer.”
  • What skills have you gained from participating in the program, and how do they factor into your future career? 
    • Kilcrease: “I gained valuable professional skills for research. Specifically, I was able to hone my skills at crafting a research abstract and poster, as well as working with statistical software like SPSS Statistics. More importantly, I received presentation experience to an academic audience and learned how to defend my research.”
  • What was it like to conduct health outreach in the community? Thoughts about the experience? 
    • Kilcrease: “It was amazing! I wanted to conduct research where I could directly interact with local communities and help inform on healthy preventative medicine practices, and the MIOS program delivered. I truly feel like I made a difference in people’s lives. And we helped make a difference not only in Hattiesburg, but throughout the state of Mississippi.”
  • Congratulations on winning the Overall Best Poster award in the research poster competition at Mississippi IDeA/EPSCoR Conference 2022! How did it feel to see all your hard work come to fruition in such a big way? 
    • Kilcrease: “Thank you! Honestly, it was pure shock. I never expected to win a prize, let alone first place, but it was a fantastic feeling seeing my research topic be recognized for all the hard work I put in over the summer. I was especially proud seeing several of my cohort mates also winning prizes. It shows the promising futures for each of them! I couldn’t have done it without the help of the entire Mississippi INBRE team, especially Mrs. Sermin Aras, Dr. Jennifer Lemacks, & Dr. Antonio Gardner, my faculty advisor.”
  • Do you have any advice for students considering applying for the program next year? 
    • Kilcrease: “If you’re even slightly interested in conducting research, go for it! The Outreach Scholars program was a wonderful opportunity to not only conduct health-related research, but to also conduct meaningful outreach events for the local Hattiesburg community. I promise you won’t regret it.”
  • Favorite memory from this summer? 
    • Kilcrease: “One of my favorite memories was doing an outreach event at the Turtle Creek Mall in Hattiesburg. I had a great day interacting with the local community about health disparities. Overall, though, I would have to say it was spending every day with my fellow Scholars. We really had a fantastic group, and it was a privilege to meet so many diverse and talented students. I think our group will give Mississippi a bright future.”
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
    • Kilcrease: “In 10 years, I hope to be working as a rural health physician in the South, possibly even Mississippi, where I will have my own clinic to provide preventative medicine in underserved communities.”

We’d like to thank Kilcrease for participating in the interview, and we wish him good luck on his career path to becoming a rural health physician. One day that clinic will be more than just a dream.