March 26, 2017  

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USM Graduate Earns Prestigious Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship

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University of Southern Mississippi graduate Vaniecia Wilson, left, is pictured with Dr. David Felton, Dean of the School of Dentistry at University of Mississippi Medical Center. (Submitted photo).

First-year dental student Vaniecia Wilson, a graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi, has been awarded the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship valued at $35,000 per year for her dental training at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry.

Created in 2013, the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program (MRDSP) is designed to provide more general and pediatric dentists in rural areas of Mississippi.  During dental school, each MRDSP scholar receives $35,000 per year based on available funding.

Wilson, a Roxie, Miss., native received her undergraduate degree this past May with a major in biological sciences. She notes that she has been eyeing a career in dentistry since the age of 6.

“I had a great relationship with my pediatric dentist coming up, so it inspired me to go forth with this career choice,” said Wilson. “I didn’t have any idea about how I was going to pay for school besides taking out student loans, but I knew I wanted to be a dentist, so I decided I would do whatever it took to get the funds.”

Wilson said that the MRDSP has helped pave the way to realizing her dream.

“I took the initiative to learn more about the rural scholarship, and I learned that it was something just right for me, so I applied,” she said. “I was so thrilled when I received the awarding letter for the scholarship. I couldn’t do anything by thank God.”

Wilson is the daughter of Shannon Hunt of Hattiesburg, Miss.

Consistent legislative support of MRDSP translates to nine dental students receiving a total of $315,000 to support their education this fall. One private scholarship is also funded by the Community Bank Foundation. Additional benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural dentists and academic support. 

Upon completion of dental training, MRDSP scholars must practice general or pediatric dentistry. The MRDSP Scholar must provide the number of years the scholarship was received of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved Mississippi community of less than 10,000 population where a need exists.

MRDSP provides a means for rural Mississippi students to earn $140,000 over four years of dental school scholarship in return for four years of service as they learn the art of oral care from practicing rural dentists.

For more information, contact MRDSP Associate Director Dan Coleman at 601-815-9022, jdcoleman@umc.edu or http://mrdsp.umc.edu.