By Erin Garrett
University of Mississippi
While the United States has recently made strides to improve overall health and well-being, minority populations continue to be disadvantaged in its health care system. They experience higher rates of illness, lower life expectancy, gaps in insurance coverage and lack of access to care.
Eboni Eddins, a senior biology major at the University of Mississippi, has firsthand experience with these systemwide failings. She is making it her life’s mission to find solutions to these problems.
“As a child, I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices and had a medical condition that was ignored for a long time,” Eddins said. “We should be tackling these issues head-on. It doesn’t have anything to do with policy and training; it’s that doctors aren’t listening to their patients.
“One way to combat this is to get more minorities in the health care field.”
Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Eddins and her family moved to the Mid-South in 2012 when her father began working at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. His background in pharmacology and neuroscience inspired Eddins to pursue a career in the medical field.
After graduating from DeSoto Central High School in Southaven, she visited the University of Mississippi for the first time.
“Not being from the Deep South, I wasn’t used to the culture of football, but when I came for that specific visit, I got to see a different side of campus,” she said. “I was able to have dinner at the chancellor’s house.
“I saw a tight-knit community – the chancellor was so open to hosting us and took a lot of time and energy in speaking with the students.”
Eddins enrolled at the university after being named a Stamps Scholar, which provided her with a scholarship covering full tuition and a $12,000 stipend to support her dreams of studying abroad.
That dream has been realized twice. Eddins took courses in South Africa and London that centered on their unique health care systems.
The summer of her junior year, Eddins traveled to South Africa. She absorbed all the culture and education that she could while there. She enjoyed the class, music, beach trips and food, but especially her classmates.
“The group that I met in South Africa are now some of my best friends,” Eddins said. “I think we all came in with such an open mindset of immersing ourselves in the culture. I learned a lot about the country and their health care system.”
She recently returned from London after studying there during winter break.
“I think my favorite part of that experience was, surprisingly, the class,” she said. “Most people don’t like going to class while studying abroad, but it was really interesting. I learned how their universal health care system works, how it is funded and all the implications behind it.”
Coincidentally, Eddins was an active participant in the health care systems in both South Africa and London.
“In South Africa, I unfortunately got COVID-19 and was down for a week and a half,” she said. “I learned about their system by being a part of it.
“In London, our whole group got strep throat. That experience also gave me an insider’s perspective.”
Eddins plans to take all that she learned while traveling and combine it with what she is learning at Ole Miss. A student in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, she is finishing up a thesis that focuses on the relationship between stress and substance abuse.
Karrye Tynes, assistant director for access and recruiting initiatives in the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, met Eddins while coordinating the Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent programs on campus. Eddins has served as a MOST mentor and is a MOST peer coordinator.
Tynes also has worked with Eddins in her capacity as primary adviser to the Black Student Union, of which Eddins is executive vice president.
“Eboni is the true definition of a ‘go-getter,'” Tynes said. “She impressively manages many, many hats – all while maintaining excellent grades. She is extremely dependable and always ready to serve.
“I have never had to question whether Eboni will follow through with all responsibilities that come with the territory in all her leadership capacities. She does everything gracefully and humbly, and I know without a doubt that those qualities will continue opening doors for her.”
Eddins is committed to opening doors for others as well. She’s worked with the National Society of Black Engineers Jr., Girl Scouts and The Big Event. She provides ACT tutoring and is also president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
In her work with the NSBE, she planned an Ole Miss visit day for older high school girls.
“They were able to talk about engineering and tour the Honors College,” Eddins said. “A lot of them are from the Memphis area, and they hadn’t been exposed to anything like this. I helped them meet with anyone they needed to talk with.
“It all goes back to trying to get more minorities in the health care system. I hope to help them understand that what they do in high school will affect what they do after they graduate.”
Toni Avant, director of the UM Career Center and a Delta advisory council member, said she was amazed by Eddins’s work ethic and determination.
“It’s hard to sum up Eboni in one sentence,” Avant said. “She is smart, funny and an exceptionally talented young leader who exercises professionalism at all times.
“She has high aspirations and is dedicated to anything she involves herself with. If she commits to it, she will give 300%, not 100%.”
Tynes praises Eddins’ dedication to both education and service.
“Through the work of the student organizations and programs she’s a part of, she’s exhibited a passion to create opportunity and awareness for others,” Tynes said. “She is extremely selfless and always committed to the mission and goals of the organizations in which she serves.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that Eboni will continue being a game changer and difference maker once she leaves the university. I’m confident that she will reach her goals and pay it forward – to the University of Mississippi, her community and beyond.”
Eddins was initially interested in biomedical engineering but changed her course after traveling and shadowing physicians. She plans to pursue medical school and has been accepted at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
While Eddins could have attended other colleges and received pre-med training, she said UM is set apart because of its caring faculty and staff.
“They pour into me,” she said. “I have a support system here that is making sure that I can be the most well-rounded person I can be.
“They push me to ask questions and push me to not just learn about health care and why I want to be a doctor, but also to learn about what I want to change.”