TUPELO • Even though she’s only in her first year of medical school, Katelynn Jackson wants to leave Mississippi better than she found it.
Jackson, who has lived in Northeast Mississippi for much of her life, is a recent recipient of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship, which provides around $30,000 per year to recipients enrolled in medical school.
Jackson said she was thrilled when she was awarded the prestigious scholarship because she’s wanted to become a pediatrician ever since she was a young girl.
“I’ve been around children a lot, and I want to be able to impact their lives while they’re young,” she said.
Jackson is a graduate of the Mississippi School for Math and Science and Mississippi State University, and she currently enrolled at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. She is the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson, senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Tupelo, and Rosia Jackson.
The rural physicians scholarship was established by the Mississippi Legislature in 2007 as a way to increase the number of primary physicians in rural areas of the state. To receive the scholarship, recipients must serve in a rural or medically underserved area in the state for four years.
Jackson said the need for quality medical professionals is dire because there may only be one or two primary physicians in a smaller Mississippi community and one of the physicians may be close to retirement.
“In lots of rural areas and people in small communities may have to travel to Jackson to get healthcare,” Jackson said. “So a lot of people in those rural areas don’t have the transportation to do that or maybe not even once a year.”
As Jackson is completing medical school, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated some of the geographic, racial and socioeconomic disparities that have long existed in some Mississippi communities.
Jackson said one of the things she hopes that will change in rural communities is the prevalence of telehealth, or using technology to treat people over large distances, as an option to address patients’ health needs.
“I think telehealth is something right now that could help, especially with Covid,” Jackson said. “I think that’s one of the best options that physicians could start using.”
In addition to technological advances, she hopes that she’s able to use her skills in speaking Spanish to possibly reach out to more people in a rural area.
Regardless of what area of the state she practices or what specific ways she serving patients, she hopes to spend the required four years in a rural community in Northeast Mississippi.