I was just another high school student from Pelzer with a dream of going to college. Like many other students at the time, I was a naive 16-year-old wondering if college was like the movies. But I had additional concerns. Being the first in one’s family to go to college comes with many challenges, and the goal of becoming a physician is another struggle altogether.
This is my story of how a program called the Medical Experience Academy, more affectionately known as MedEx, changed my life. It’s also a story of how MedEx champion Craig Brown, best known as the owner of the Greenville Drive, changed my life and the lives of hundreds of other students.
Greenville Health System’s MedEx Academy helps identify and encourage high school and college students interested in pursuing a career in health care in jobs ranging from doctors and nurses to human resources specialists, medical coders, administrators, and other allied health workers.
For those still in high school, MedEx is an educational explorative health careers program. For those in college, MedEx is a preparatory program providing experiences, resources, and advisors for acceptance into medical school, graduate programs, and employment.
My journey with MedEx started in summer 2010 in a meeting room in the Greenville Health System’s Cancer Institute. I was a member of MedEx’s inaugural class and the only student from Southside High School. The 12 of us spent every day together, learning as much as we could in a 40-hour workweek. Both clinical and nonclinical professionals – ranging from doctors and nurses to human resources experts and biomedical research specialists – presented to us the in’s and out’s of their various occupations and helped us understand health care as a vocation.
We saw firsthand how health care works. Walking through the neonatal intensive care unit was my favorite experience, and a close second was being able to practice intubation on high-tech mannequins in the Greenville HealthCare Simulation Center.
I progressed from a student to a mentor the following summer and helped to nurture some of my fellow colleagues through different areas of the medical field. I also met countless future colleagues and gained invaluable mentors.
After five years of working closely with MedEx, which took me from high school through college and now into med school, I decided that I wanted to work toward a future in primary care. I saw firsthand the difference a mentor can make and how empowering it is to have someone have faith in you.
The point of sharing all of this is to acknowledge the generosity and empowerment of Craig Brown, a benefactor and long-time supporter of this special program.
Mr. Brown received an on-field thank you two weeks ago when community members surprised him with $50,000 in student support for this innovative work pipeline he’s championed for nearly a decade.
MedEx helped me realize my dream and purpose — and the generosity of Mr. Brown made that possible.
I know my life would not be the same without MedEx. That teenager with a dream is now entering her third year of medical school at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville.
I have learned how to become a better leader and public servant and how to be the physician I’ve always dreamed of.
The amazing mentorship, generosity, and family of MedEx has helped make this small-town girl’s dream a reality. So, thank you, Mr. Brown. Thank you for believing in MedEx. I am one of many who can say that your generosity has directly affected my future for the better.
Kelsey Williams is a third-year medical student at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville. To help support MedEx or learn more about Williams’ story, visit ghsgiving.org/kelseys-story.php.