NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University freshmen aspiring to be doctors have been awarded full scholarships that will also cover their medical school costs, thanks to Baxter International, Inc.
Camille Haskins of King George, Virginia, and George Pickens IV of Miami, Florida, found out at an announcement at TSU on Monday that the global medical products company had awarded them full rides. Haskins and Pickens, both biology pre-med majors, are scholars in the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., initiative.
Last year, TSU and Meharry Medical College announced a partnership focused on establishing a pipeline of African American doctors and dentists who will provide essential care to underserved communities. The initiative is named after one of TSU’s most distinguished graduates, Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., an internationally renowned cardiac surgeon who holds an honorary degree from Meharry.
“This is great,” said TSU President Glenda Glover following the announcement. “We want to have more people in the profession who look like us, who can go into the various neighborhoods, and work and assist, and hopefully save lives.”
The scholarship recipients said the awards are life-changing.
“I’ll be able to graduate not only debt free from undergrad, but debt free from medical school,” said Haskins. “This will definitely assist me in my career, and I am so grateful once again to everyone, TSU, Meharry, and Baxter International for this.”
Pickens also expressed gratitude, and said the scholarships will allow he and Haskins to add to a field in need of more Black doctors.
“Right now, it’s a disproportionate amount of whites in the medical field,” said Pickens. “Just me being able to help reverse that statistic means the world to me.”
Also at the announcement were Terrence Izzard, associate vice president for Admissions and Recruitment; Linda Witt, senior associate vice president for development at Meharry; and Barbara Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Institute.
“We’re excited that Baxter International has chosen to support the Institute,” said Murrell. “We have some outstanding young people who have outstanding credentials. We’re so lucky to have them, and we look forward to what they will do in the future.”
Witt, a TSU alum, echoed that sentiment.
“The financial aid just levels the playing field for these students,” she said. “We look forward to having other companies look at this model, and also be a part of this process.”
Last month, Baxter announced that TSU and Meharry were among three historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that would receive part of $1.2 million to support Black students pursuing health and science degrees and ultimately help expand the pipeline of Black healthcare professionals.
The scholarships are part of Baxter’s Activating Change Today initiative to advance inclusion and racial justice.
“The lack of diversity in healthcare is a longstanding and multifaceted problem, one that we are focused on helping to address,” said Verónica Arroyave, senior director of Global Community Relations at Baxter. “Creating opportunities that support and empower Black students to pursue medical and scientific careers is one way we can help drive positive change, and we are proud to partner with respected organizations like Meharry, Morehouse, and Tennessee State to expand this effort.”
To learn more about the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Institute, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/.
NOTE: Pictured in featured photo are (l-r) George Pickens Jr., Linda Witt of Meharry, TSU President Glenda Glover, Institute chair Barbara Murrell, and Camille Haskins.
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