(JACKSON, Miss.) — Incoming SGA president Jacori Daniels has been a servant leader since arriving at JSU, and now his mission widens after being accepted into the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program (MRPSP).
His selection means that patients in his native Hazlehurst and other rural towns can expect better health services locally at a time when rural hospitals are closing and people are forced to travel many miles to see a doctor.
“The biggest thing is providing quality care within the area because a lot of times people have to travel to Jackson, which is not a skip and a walk,” said Daniels. He’s a Jackson State University biology pre-med student in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology and is poised to receive $30,000 annual scholarships through MRPSP.
If the 21-year-old Phi Kappa Phi Honors student with a 4.0 GPA receives the scholarship for four years while completing his future studies at University of Mississippi Medical Center, he’ll be required to practice medicine in a rural Mississippi town for four years after his residency.
In 2007, the Mississippi Legislature authorized the MRPSP to identify college students who aspire to return to their roots to practice medicine and address the Magnolia state’s health care crisis.
While some people will undergo a two-year program, Daniels opted for a single year after being granted an early scholarship assurance through MEDCORP-Direct. That program provides special contingencies from UMMC. Still, he must maintain a certain MCAT score to secure his spot in the program.
Daniels said he supports MRPSP’s mission, which urges scholars to embrace small-town values and develop a “common passion for maverick determination.” For him, having a sense of community is vital, too, and it’s personal.
Losing three grandparents to cancer, including a grandmother who was a nurse, left him feeling somber and helpless. He reflected on her endearing love while also recounting how she languished in a hospice before succumbing to her illness when he was 14.
His sorrow over all the loses in his family is inspiring him to seek a career in the medical field that includes his mother, who also is a nurse.
Today, he’s working as a patient transporter/ambassador at UMMC, and he doesn’t want anyone to lose his or her life due to a lack of access to quality health care. He has other concerns, too. Among them are the shortage of rural-town physicians and hospital closures.
He’s especially concerned about the distance people must travel for medical services. He recently met a patient who drove from Greenville seeking quality care. He said several other patients traveling to Jackson from rural areas have similar concerns.
“Patients must travel out of their comfort zone. People are connected to their rural areas, and it can be frightening going into unfamiliar environments. They don’t want to travel long distances and just may rely on home remedies,” he said, adding there’s a danger that patients’ conditions could worsen and jeopardize their lives.
“From Hazlehurst to Jackson, that’s about 35 miles going north. And everybody might not have transportation in rural areas. They end up hustling to find a way to get to Jackson for just a regular doctor’s appointment – not to mention if there’s something serious,” he added.
People shy away from medical attention because it’s not accessible. Then, they form negative opinions about health care. With one bad experience, they may refuse to travel 35 miles north,” Daniels said.
These issues are compounded by the lack of and the uncertainty of insurance coverage as well as a distrust of the medical community.
Notwithstanding their doubts, Daniels wants to remove patients’ perceptions despite historical patterns.
So, he’s committed to practicing medicine in rural areas such as Hazlehurst or Raymond, where he lives now, so that people don’t have to leave their comfort zones.
“With me coming into the community and people seeing a familiar face, they understand my passion because they’ve known me since I was a little boy. It makes them more comfortable. They feel I’m someone they can connect with. You want patients to connect with their physicians, nurses and everyone else in the health care field. That way you can successfully treat the whole body,” Daniels said.
While serving his community, his paid tuition will allow him to devote full attention to patient care rather than stressing over repaying student loans.
“Typically, once you’re out of medical school you’re not totally focused on quality care for the patient. Instead, you’re trying to work to pay back everything so you can live. With the scholarship, I can dive head first into my career as a physician without distractions,” Daniels said.
By participating in the rural scholarship program, Daniels will be required to help lobby state legislators to continue supporting the rural physicians program. As well, he must perform two-day biannual medical encounters. Basically, he’ll observe and discuss the day-to-day work routines of rural-area doctors to ascertain whether he’s cut out for the job.
For now, he’s strongly interested in pursuing internal medicine with an emphasis in pediatrics although he realizes that could change in the future.
“Nevertheless, my goal is to serve all people and not because it looks good. It must be genuine and real. I don’t want to do it just because of the money. Even if my passion were to be a teacher or a garbage man I would want to do it to the best of my ability. I won’t slander anyone. I look at everyone the same.”
Giving back to others is part of his DNA. As mentioned, several of his family members have worked in the medical profession, and he’s spent his entire college life honing his leadership skills.
Aside from being the new SGA president, he was formerly freshman vice president and became a Collegiate 100 member. Later, he would be elected Mister Sophomore and junior class president. As well, he’s been inducted into the National Collegiate Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
His affiliations include the JSU Blue Ambassadors, NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. As if those aren’t enough, he’s also an organic chemistry tutor.
Still, Daniels especially credits JSU for paving a way to his bright future.
“My leadership roles at JSU have taught me to be a professional at all times, not to be lax and to maintain a professional look. They have taught me patience, too, which is thin. However, I’ve come to realize that everyone doesn’t work as fast as I do or may not catch on as quickly. I’ve learned how to connect with others better and not to be uptight but instead to talk, walk, dress, stand out and be hip on a mature level.”
Furthermore, he said, “Jackson State has impacted me by showing that you don’t have to go to PWI to gain adequate contacts for a successful career. You can do that through JSU, and probably better, and come out well structured. Whenever I go to conferences to represent JSU we tend to stand out,” Daniels said.
While it seems Daniels is preoccupied with his leadership roles and his future career, he does find time to dabble in extracurricular sports. He loves running on the track, shopping “quite a bit” and reading – especially nonfiction.
Moreover, as the new student body president, Daniels said his platform will involve elevating his peers, with strong emphasis on POWER (Providing Opportunities Where Everyone Rises).
“I want everyone to feel they can be a catalyst for change. You have to spread power and love to advance the community,” Daniels said.