COLUMBUS, Miss. – Cali Edwards and Yesenia Gonzalez are from different cities in Mississippi, but both have the same dream: to return to their hometowns to make a difference.

Edwards of Athens and Gonzalez of Pontotoc were accepted into the undergraduate portion of the prestigious Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship (MRPSP) program. 

Created in 2007, MRPSP identifies college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate the necessary commitment and academic achievement to become well-trained rural primary care physicians in the state. The program offers undergraduate academic enrichment and a clinical experience in a rural setting. Upon completion of all medical school admissions requirements, the student can be admitted to the University of Mississippi School of Medicine or William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Edwards and Gonzalez are juniors at The W.

During medical school, each MRPSP scholar is under consideration for $30,000 per year based on available funding. Consistent legislative support of MRPSP translates to 60 medical students receiving a total of $1,800,000 to support their education this fall. Additional benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural physicians and academic support.

EdwardsEdwards and Gonzalez had their first medical encounter at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, School of Medicine in Jackson this past summer. They learned about medical procedures and met medical staff and students in order to get a firsthand glimpse of the medical field.

“I come from a rural area. After I graduated from high school, I chose a college with a personalized environment where I could have one-on-one connections with my professors. The W stood out to me. It turned out to be exactly as I expected,” said Edwards.

She added, “Having grown up in a rural area, I have experienced not being able to have a physician in your area. That makes you unaware of health issues and can lead to other problems, including disease and death. Seeing my family experience that, I developed a passion for becoming a physician in my hometown.”

Edwards, a junior majoring in biology/pre-med, will graduate in December of 2018 with honors. She wants to finish medical school and eventually become an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Gonzalez is majoring in biology and is a first-generation college student.

She said, “I came from a small high school so I wanted to attend a small university. At The W, there are small classrooms, you really get to know your teachers who help you out a lot.”
Gonzalez added, “The student-faculty ratio here at The W really helps us to comprehend the curriculum better. If I was in a bigger school, I probably wouldn’t have done this well.”

GonzalezBorn in the suburban town of Silvis, Ill., Gonzalez’s family moved to Mississippi as a youth. Seeing the difference in both places made her want to help a rural community become more developed and medically served.
Gonzalez plans to graduate early—December 2017 and go on to medical school.

Both Edwards and Gonzalez noted that they received tremendous help and support from faculty members in the Department of Sciences and Mathematics at The W. Faculty conducted mock interviews to help them in their application process and wrote recommendation letters for the students.

“Cali and Yesenia both love their hometowns. They really do feel strongly about going back to their hometowns to make a difference as physicians. We are very thrilled about that,” said Dr. Dionne Fortenberry, chair of the Department of Sciences and Mathematics and professor of chemistry.

Upon completion of medical training, MRPSP Scholars must enter a residency program in one of five primary care specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology or pediatrics. The MRPSP Scholar must provide four years of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved Mississippi community of 15,000 or fewer populations located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

Anna Watson (biology major, class of 2016) was the first student from The W to be accepted into the undergraduate phase of this program. Edwards and Gonzalez are the second and third students from The W to be accepted into this scholarship program.

For more information about the program, please contact MRPSP Associate Director Dan Coleman at (601)815-9022, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

Nov. 6, 2017
Contact: Urusha Silwal
(662) 497-8028
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