Northwest Mississippi Community College student Kaitlin Coker of Charleston was recently accepted into the Mississippi Rural Dentist Scholarship Program (MRDSP). Coker is the first student from Northwest to achieve this honor.
Coker studied biology at Northwest and will transfer to the University of MIssissippi this fall, where she will major in biological sciences. Once she earns her bachelor’s degree, she will begin dental school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson.
“I found out about this program at a meeting with Wahnee Sherman, executive director of the Mississippi Rural Dentist Scholarship program. My teacher Robin Robison encouraged me to look into the program because he knew I was interested in dentistry,” Coker said.
According to the UMMC website, “in 2013, the Mississippi Legislature authorized the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program (MRDSP), creating a unique longitudinal program that identifies rural college students who aspire to return to their roots to practice general dentistry. Academic enrichment, faculty and dentist mentoring plus solid dental school financial support through the MRDSP will enable capable young Mississippians to provide adequate dental care in rural areas of Mississippi.”
Coker became interested at a young age. She always liked going to the dentist as a child. “I think that’s probably weird, because kids are usually scared of the dentist, but I loved it. I had a good dentist growing up, and he was actually who I shadowed under,” Coker said. She has job shadowed for over 50 hours with Charleston dentist, Dr. Ronal Roberson.
“MRDSP’s three phases include: Initial (prior to matriculation to dental school); dental school training; and actual practice. Maintaining a high level of awareness and involvement in Mississippi’s rural health care is a constant in every phase of training. Channeling scholars into general dentistry or pediatric dentistry will target the current rural dental shortage,” the UMMC website explained.
While a student at Northwest, Coker was a member of of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society, Student Government and the Health Professionals Club. Coker explained that living in the dorms enabled her to get involved at school and gave her opportunities to get into study groups. “I had a great experience at Northwest. It turned out to be the perfect place for me. I am very proud to be a Ranger,” Coker said.
“Kaitlin was one of my best and hardest working students last year. She will represent Northwest well in dental school,” Robison said.
Once she has completed dental school, Coker will have to practice dentistry in a rural area for five years. “I would really like to go back to my hometown, but I am going to go where ever I am needed,” Coker said.
For more information on Northwest, visit the college’s website at northwestms.edu. For more information on MRDSP, visit umc.edu.
Pictured: NorthwestMississippi Community College student Kaitlin Coker of Charleston (center) was recently accepted into the Mississippi Rural Dentist Scholarship Program (MRDSP). Coker is the first student from Northwest to achieve this honor. Congratulating Coker (l-r) is Robin Robison, division director of Natural Sciences, Kim Poland, Melissa Greene and Shay Carter, science instructors. (Photo by LaJuan Tallo)