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UM Alumna Named Phi Kappa Phi Fellow

UM alumna Elaine Smith is recognized for her academic achievements during the 2019 Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Spring Convocation. Submitted photo

A recent University of Mississippi alumna has been awarded a prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship to study medicine at Thomas Jefferson University.

Elaine Smith, of Hudson, Wisconsin, was awarded $8,500 by the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Smith, who received her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in May, is among 58 recipients nationwide to receive a fellowship.

“I was immediately grateful and excited because this fellowship will help ease the financial burden associated with medical school and help me focus on my studies,” said Smith, who will begin pursuing her Doctor of Medicine at TJU’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College in July 2020.

“I was able to defer my admission in order to take a gap year in South America. I’ll be in medical school there for four years, then move on to residency.”

Two of Smith’s former Ole Miss professors said she is most deserving of the prestigious honor.

“Ellie was a top student in organic chemistry who scored in the 99th national percentile on the standardized final exam,” said Daniell Mattern, professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “In the Honors College discussion sections, her contributions were unusually spirited, insightful and cheerful, so I thought she would be a good recitation leader for the following year, and she was.”

Susan Pedigo, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said Smith is a bright, engaged learner, with an intensity about her intellect that she really appreciated.

“In one of the hardest courses of study at the university, Ellie has a perfect academic record,” she said. “This level of performance testifies to Ellie’s ability to multitask to balance competing demands.”

Smith said her dream is to be a bilingual physician working with Latinx populations in urban communities throughout the country.

“My gap year in South America will help me better my Spanish abilities and give me more experience with the people and cultures of Latin America,” she said. “This fellowship will go directly toward my first year’s tuition at medical school and help me on my journey to becoming a physician striving to help eliminate health care disparities both here and abroad.”

Smith said she is grateful for her Ole Miss educational experience.

“The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College has been instrumental in getting me to where I am today,” she said. “Furthermore, being involved with the women’s club volleyball team and organizations like AMSA, Phi Mu and Safe Ride improved my ability to collaborate and engage with others.”

Since its creation in 1932, the fellowship program has become one of the society’s most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, allocating $615,000 annually to outstanding students for first-year graduate or professional study. This year’s program awarded 50 fellowships of $8,500, six $20,000 Marcus L. Urann Fellowships, named for the society’s founder, and two new awards at $35,000 each, the 1897 Fellowship and the Sherrill Carlson Fellowship.

The selection process for a fellowship is based on the applicant’s evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals, and acceptance in an approved graduate or professional program.

Phi Kappa Phi Fellowships are part of the society’s robust award programs, which give nearly $1 million each year to outstanding members and students on chapter campuses through study abroad grants, dissertation fellowships, funding for post-baccalaureate development, member and chapter awards, and grants for local, national and international literacy initiatives.

To see the complete list of 2019 Phi Kappa Phi fellows and learn more about the program, visit http://www.phikappaphi.org/fellowship.

By Edwin B. Smith

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