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Sharifa Love-Rutledge was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar working under Prof. Randy Wadkins and just became a biochemistry professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). When Love-Rutledge entered college, she started out as a biology major, but after completing general chemistry and organic chemistry courses, she made the “switch” to chemistry. “I was drawn to chemistry because of my love for creative problem-solving. Biochemistry was the subject that allowed me to utilize my analytical thought processes to pursue biological questions. It didn’t dawn on me that chemistry was a male dominated field until graduate school. By then, it was too late because I was already hooked.”
A native of Moss Point, MS, Love-Rutledge attended Moss Point High School. Love-Rutledge developed a keen interest in science when she and her younger brother shared a lab kit for Christmas one year. “We made borax (super bouncy) balls first, and went on to complete all the experiments in the kit, and I wanted to do more,” said Love-Rutledge. She is also the first African-American woman to earn a PhD from The University of Alabama Department of Chemistry. An Advanced Placement student in English and Mathematics, she went on to graduate from Tougaloo College (Tougaloo, MS) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Love-Rutledge earned a Master’s degree and PhD from The University of Alabama (UA) in Chemistry and Biochemistry, respectively.
Love-Rutledge said she “felt hopeful,” when she realized she would be the first African American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry from UA. “It was bittersweet because the reality of it all is that I wasn’t the first African American female capable of the accomplishment but opportunities weren’t afforded in the past. It allowed me to view myself as part of the culmination of the sacrifices made by those like Vivian Malone and James Hood,” she added.
The student in lockstep with Love-Rutledge in the Department of Chemistry at UA was Dr. Melody Kelley, now Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Georgia State University. Love-Rutledge said she continues to find “inspiration in seeing other African American women who are persevering and making progress toward the completion of advanced degrees.”
Early mentors for Love-Rutledge were her older siblings. “They poured their knowledge into me to ensure that I made wise decisions. If it wasn’t for my older brother, I don’t think I would’ve survived some of my math courses,” she said. “Once I left home, I started to rely on advice from my uncle Dr. Claude McGowan, who was Director of Toxicology at Johnson & Johnson, along with professors like Dr. Candice Love-Jackson, Acting Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Kentucky State University.”
Additionally, Love-Rutledge was encouraged through the graduate school application process by dedicated Ronald McNair Scholars Coordinator, Demetria Hereford. And, as a graduate student, she was able to enlist the tutelage of several professors at UA. “It was also in graduate school that I was reminded of how important my parents’ guidance is. Their constant support and dedication was important in forming my personal and professional abilities.”
Love-Rutledge learned about UAH from Dr. Emanuel Waddell, Associate Dean of the College of Science while attending graduate school at UA. “The deciding factors for me to further my teaching and research career at UAH included the size of the student population and access to resources that I would need to be successful. I have always wanted to work at a university where students are viewed as more than numbers.”
“We are excited to have Dr. Love-Rutledge join us in the chemistry department. Her research will be attractive to students and we look forward to her establishing her research laboratory in the coming months,” said Dr. Emanuel Waddell, Associate Dean of the UAH College of Science.
At UAH Love-Rutledge will teach biochemistry classes. “I have a lab and I am currently working on research projects related to identifying biomarkers for Type 1 Diabetes, and studying the changes cells producing insulin undergo before disease onset.” As a teacher, Love-Rutledge said she loves students’ light bulb moments the best. At UA she served as a graduate teaching assistant for the majority of her graduate career. “I love reaffirming students’ passion for their chosen field of study. There is no greater joy for me than to see my students go on to be successful in their fields of choice. I have taught students who wanted to be nurses and are nurses now, and students who wanted to be doctors who are now in residency programs. I love seeing students reach their goals.”
As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Love-Rutledge’s first bona fide research project studied the enzymes that activate colon cancer drugs. The project’s Principal Investigator was Dr. Randy Wadkins, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Mississippi. “In my graduate research, I worked on projects that helped show Chromium, (hard, brittle metal) is not an essential element for mammalian nutrition. The research findings were published in a paper that led The European Food and Safety Authority to remove Chromium from the list of elements that ‘require daily intake’.”
Love-Rutledge freely offers words of wisdom for young women interested in entering academic fields of specialization. “Recently I’ve been exposed to the slogan, ‘You can’t do UAH alone’. I think it’s awesome advice for young women to adapt who are interested in chemistry — ‘You can’t do Chemistry alone’,” she said. “Even when you seem alone, you never are. Find mentors to give you advice, utilize your peers on and off campus to get through the tough times. Some of my best academic advice came from taking a risk and emailing a professor who I thought was out of reach. You will be surprised at how much help you could receive if you just ask for it.”
The McNair Scholars Program is a federal program funded at 51 institutions across the United States and Puerto Rico by the U.S. Department of Education. It is designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. Dr. Ronald E. McNair was the second African American to fly in space. Two years later he was selected to serve as mission specialist aboard the ill-fated U.S. Challenger space shuttle. He was killed on Jan. 28, 1986, instantly when the Challenger exploded one minute, 13 seconds after it was launched.
Original story by Joyce Anderson-Maples can be found at http://www.uah.edu/news/people/uah-welcomes-dr-sharifa-love-rutledge-to-the-college-of-science.
Registration and Abstract Submission Now Open for 50th Annual Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference (SURC 2018)
Registration and abstract submission are now open for the 50th Annual Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference (SURC 2018) at http://surc2018.com. The 50th Annual SURC will be held on the campus of the University of Mississippi February 2nd and 3rd, 2018. Undergraduate students are invited to deliver oral presentations. CLICK HERE or on the logo for more information.
PRESTON — When Dr. Anna Marie Hailey-Sharp was growing up in rural Preston, there was no such thing as a quick trip to the doctor. Her pediatrician worked in Meridian, one hour away. So she didn’t see a doctor unless she really needed to.
Unfortunately, Haley-Sharp, who had asthma as a child, needed to see her doctor a lot. So on Fridays after school, she and her mom would pile into the Ford Explorer and drive to Meridian for her weekly allergy shots — two hours, round trip. Sometimes, if her asthma started acting up, her whole family would make the trip in the middle of the night.
“We were back and forth to Meridian for years,” Hailey-Sharp said. “I don’t think we really thought that much about it at the time. It’s just the way things were. You got so used to going to Meridian for stuff that it just became a way of life.”
But for Preston’s residents, this way of life may be on its way out. In late 2015, not long after she had finished her medical residency, Hailey-Sharp opened a family medicine clinic in Preston, making her the first doctor to practice in this one-stop-sign town.
But if Hailey-Sharp’s decision to set up shop in one of Mississippi’s most rural corners was unusual, it was far from a surprise. As one of the first graduates of Mississippi’s Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, she had committed to returning to Preston before she even committed to a specialty at the University of Mississippi’s medical school.
At a time when rural hospitals around the state are struggling to stay open amid financial and regulatory burdens, Mississippi’s rural physicians scholarship program is trying to put more doctors to work in underserved parts of the state by targeting students from rural communities willing to return home to practice.
“Really our program is about continuity of care, people being able to make a difference in the overall health care of a community because they’re building these consistent relationships with their patients,” said Wahnee Sherman, executive director of the Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.
There’s little question Mississippi needs more doctors. The state averages just 184 physicians for every 100,000 residents, fewer than any other state in the country. The problem is particularly stark in the rural parts of the state. In 2013, 21 of Mississippi’s 82 counties had four or fewer primary care physicians, according to the Department of Health. Two of those counties, Carroll and Issaquena, had zero.
“The difficult places are the rural and impoverished parts of the state,” said Dr. Randy Easterling of the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure.
Over the course of the next decade, Mississippi’s Rural Scholars Program has the potential to put nearly 200 young doctors to work in small towns across the state. This year, 19 first-year medical students joined the program.
But needing something doesn’t always translate to using it once it arrives. Old habits die hard, and like Hailey-Sharp, many Preston residents don’t think twice about driving an hour to go to the doctor.
The survival of these rural health clinics depends on strong community support, far more than clinics in urban settings, according to Ryan Kelly, executive director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association.
“Their census is always a challenge,” Kelly said. “They are in places with a low population and in order to make money to survive, they have to have that certain number of patients.
“There’s still the mentality in places that it is a lesser quality of health care, but that’s the furthest you can get from the truth,” Kelly said. “It’s really high quality health care. They have the same requirements as everyone else. They simply operate in an area where there’s not health care.”
Preston, an unincorporated community in Kemper County, is small, even by small-town Mississippi standards. Its few businesses sit within sight of each other, the lone exception being Hailey-Sharp’s clinic, tucked into two double-wide trailers behind the volunteer fire department.
On a recent afternoon, Hailey-Sharp is on the phone at her desk. Her voice, light but authoritative, fills every corner of the small office.
“I wanted to let you know your CT scan didn’t show anything other than a hernia. But I’m going to make you an appointment with a surgeon. Your daughter was telling me you used Dr. Ward for your colonoscopy …”
She trails off, listening to the patient. “Okay, alright. You tell me when’s good for you.”
Since Hailey-Sharp began her practice, she has acquired a reputation for one thing in particular: She makes her own calls, a task usually left to nurses and medical assistants.
“It’s just quicker for them to ask me questions than it is for them to ask someone else who then has to ask me,” Hailey-Sharp said.
Hearing this explanation, however, Hailey-Sharp’s staff laughs. Her nurse, Shelly Goforth, has more than a decade of experience. Doctors, she said, don’t call their patients.
“Even if their labs are normal, she’s going to call them. And that’s something that even myself, with my years in health care, I haven’t experienced that.” Goforth said. “It’s like normally you call the doctor’s office, you call them and call them. And they’re saying, ‘Well, if there’s anything wrong we’ll let you know.’ And you’re like, ‘No – I still want to know!’”
The Rural Physicians Scholarship Program began slowly, with its first student entering practice in 2012. Hailey-Sharp, who finished her residency in 2015, had only three other rural scholars in her class.
Potential scholars don’t have to be from a rural part of the state, but they do have to be from Mississippi and attend one of its two medical schools, the University of Mississippi and William Carey University in Hattiesburg, which has a doctor of osteopathy program. And they need to know what they’re getting into.
“They have to understand what rural Mississippi means,” Sherman said. “They need to have a substantial experience from a rural area, whether it’s grandparents or other family.”
The rural physicians program requires its students to commit to one year of practice in their chosen community for each year they received the scholarship. But Sherman admitted the goal is for doctors to stay permanently. This is why community ties are so important, since rural areas don’t have much in the way of shops or restaurants to attract out-of-towners.
“The fact is you don’t always recruit physicians, you recruit their wives or husbands, and a lot of wives want to live in Northeast Jackson and they want to send their kids to the best schools. And I can sympathize with that,” Easterling said.
Preston doesn’t even have a school — kids in town take the bus to DeKalb, the county seat.
Still, the Rural Physicians Program made a smart bet with Hailey-Sharp. She joined the program as a second-year medical student, meaning she’s obligated to practice three years in Preston. And more than halfway through, she doesn’t have plans to leave.
Her husband is from the area, too. Many of her patients know her mom and knew her dad, who passed away this summer. And, she admits, some even use this to their advantage.
“If they can’t reach me they’ll call my mom,” Hailey-Sharp said. “But it’s not really an issue. No one abuses it. If they legitimately need something I would want them to tell me.”
Much as Preston itself differs from cities like Meridian or Jackson, the kind of medicine doctors here practice also differs from the kind practiced in bigger areas. And perhaps another reason these doctors need to know their communities is that not everyone is cut out for it.
“There’s not a lot of doctors you can find anymore who actually care about what their patients need and what’s going on with them and try to find out why things are going on. And these patients really like that. They want someone who knows their lives and is going to take that time,” said Heather Kenney, Hailey-Sharp’s office assistant.
“I think that’s what’s bringing people here.”
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, David Barefield was planting watermelons in a field off of Route 397 with his son, Bobo. He has been using the Preston clinic since shortly after it opened, and, as he wiped the sweat from his brow, he grinned talking about his relationship with his new doctor.
“I like having the clinic here in Preston,” Barefield said. “The only trouble I have down there is calling her ‘doctor,’ because I’ve called her Anna Marie since she was a little girl. But it is super nice to be able to go down there and be done in the time it takes you to drive to another doctor.”
Not everyone in town has been as quick to convert, however. Les Henderson runs the Preston General Store, at the intersection of Highway 21 and Route 397. He is thrilled that Preston finally has a clinic. “It’s already boosted the economy by 25 percent,” he said and laughs. But he doesn’t have plans to use it anytime soon.
“I don’t hardly go to the doctor if I can avoid it,” Henderson said.
Of the one dozen Preston residents who spoke with Mississippi Today, almost all were excited about the clinic’s arrival. But fewer than half had actually used the clinic in the year and half since it opened.
This could pose a problem for the clinic. Preston is a small town, and survival is tough for any business without the full backing of the community.
Lance Brent is a vice president at Rush Health Systems, which operates the Preston clinic. Of the towns where Rush has its 19 rural health clinics, Preston is by far the smallest, he said. And he acknowledged that this carries a certain level of risk.
“And I don’t know that there is anything that alleviates that risk. I think we just took a chance and put it out there,” Brent said.
Brent said that Rush doesn’t set a target number of patients for its clinics but “20 a day would be great.” And he thinks the clinic, which currently sees about 14 patients a day, can eventually get there.
“She’s liked by the community, and with that I think that it’ll continue to grow,” Brent said.
And this points to what might be the biggest draw for the clinic — Hailey-Sharp, herself. She arrived in town with something few big city doctors can claim right out of residency: a great reputation.
Maebelena Smith has made several trips to the clinic in recent months. Even so, to her the new physician in town isn’t “doctor” or “Anna Marie,” but “Cecil Hailey’s granddaughter.”
“That’s what makes a lot of people come to her. They know her family and background. Her grandfather was a good man, he helped people when he could, and she’s got to be cut from the same mold,” Smith said. “She’s a very kind girl. And she’s a good doctor, too.”
About Larrison Campbell
Larrison Campbell writes about healthcare and some social issues for Mississippi Today. Email Larrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Ole Miss Chemistry Summer Research Program REU is supported by an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site (CHE-1156713 & CHE-1460568), the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), including EPSCoR Track 2 (OIA-1539035) and Track 1 (EPS-0132618 & EPS-0903787) awards, and single investigator awards, including NSF CHE-0955550, CHE-0957317, and CHE-1455167. For more information, see http://reu.chem.olemiss.edu.
Chemistry professor Jared Delcamp has been honored as an inaugural recipient of a New Scholar Award in the university’s College of Liberal Arts.
“The College of Liberal Arts continues to recruit some of the very best young faculty in the nation,” said Charles L. Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education and professor of chemistry. “These faculty members represent the ‘best of the best’ in the college and will no doubt prove to be academic leaders in their discipline.”
The New Scholar Award will be presented annually to untenured, tenure-track faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts who are within six years of their initial tenure-track academic appointment and who have demonstrated exemplary performance in research, scholarship and/or creative achievement. Depending on the quality of the pool of nominees, up to four awards will be available, with one each chosen from the areas of natural sciences and mathematics, social sciences, humanities, and fine and performing arts.
Individuals may receive the award only once, but recipients will retain their eligibility for the College of Liberal Arts Award for Research, Scholarship and Creative Achievement, which is normally awarded to post-tenure, senior faculty. “New scholars must be nominated by the department chair and/or tenured professorial rank colleagues in cooperation with the chair,” Hussey said. “Nominations will remain active for two years. A faculty committee chosen by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts or his designee will select the award recipients.”
Delcamp said he was so focused on his field’s research that he really hadn’t considered anyone outside of it taking notice of progress being made. “To be acknowledged by people outside my own small research world was very fulfilling,” he said. “To be given an award like this certainly has instilled a sense of pride in the work my group has done. It was great to see people outside my field taking note of how hard we have been working.”
Delcamp’s research focuses on dye-sensitized solar cells. These solar cell materials are made from very robust, cost-effective, nonhazardous materials and can be mass produced at a fraction of the cost of solar cells commonly seen on rooftops. “My group focuses on one specific component of these solar cells that is known to be the performance-limiting material,” Delcamp said. “We are using synthetic organic chemistry to offer new materials, which can be competitive in terms of performance to traditional solar cells while maintaining the tremendous cost advantage. So far, my team owns a number of records in this field, and we look forward to breaking them soon.”
For more information about the College of Liberal Arts, go to http://libarts.olemiss.edu.
For more information about this year’s recipients, see https://news.olemiss.edu/four-um-faculty-members-named-liberal-arts-new-scholars.
The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi recognized a Department of Chemistry faculty member Friday (May 13) for his excellence in teaching. Steven Davis, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was given the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. Dr. Davis was recognized at the university’s spring faculty meeting and was also honored this past Saturday at the university’s 164th Commencement. He received a plaque and $1,000, and his name will be added to the award plaque in the dean’s office. Davis said he is pleased and honored that his students and the college have chosen to recognize his commitment to teaching. “It is a great honor to be included in the list of awardees,” said Davis, who received his doctorate from the University of Virginia and has been on the UM faculty for 28 years. “I really enjoy working with freshman students as they adjust to college and begin their academic training here. “Ultimately, I hope my students view my class as gaining skills to be used throughout their careers, not just as a grade to move onto the next class in their majors.” Established 30 years ago by Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tennessee, the Graham award aims to help retain better professors who teach freshman classes in the College of Liberal Arts. Criteria for this annual award also include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students, and concern for students’ welfare. Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said Davis is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated teachers he’s ever worked with. “He has become one of the department’s most effective instructors for our first-year general chemistry sequence, aka Freshman Chemistry,” Tschumper said. Also, click here to see a press release from the The College of Liberal Arts.
Davita Watkins, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has won a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award for her research in elucidating the role of sigma-hole interactions in advanced functional materials that she develops in her labs on the campus of the University of Mississippi. The award totals approximately $500,000 and has a duration of five years. The operational efficiency of functional materials—ranging from solar-harvesting polymers to nanosized therapeutic drug delivery systems—depend on two factors: (1) the nature of the constituting components (i.e., molecules); and (2) the arrangement of those molecules to yield a useful overall composition. The ability to control these molecules and understand their organization into discrete nanoscale arrays that exhibit unique properties affords transformative advances in chemistry and material science. The research focus of this CAREER plan is to establish guidelines towards developing molecules that absorb natural energy and produce/conduct electrical current. These molecules are unique in that they are programmed to self-organize and form structures that enhance those light-harvesting properties. The new knowledge gained from this research leads to the development of more efficient organic-based materials and devices; thereby, advancing the pursuit of technological applications (e.g., electronic devices and biomedical implants). Moreover, the project affords opportunities to technically train the next generation of scientists and engineers. Specifically, outreach initiatives are aimed towards increasing the number of females and minorities in chemistry-related fields by immersing rising high school seniors into a summer research program called Operation ICB (I Can Be). The program ensures continuation in scientific career fields by establishing networks and mentorship across disciplines; in turn, diversifying the future of the scientific workforce and culture. Move information about Dr. Watkins can be found on her research program website at http://watkinsresearchgroup.org.
Previous NSF Career Awardees in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry include:
Andrew Cooksy (1995)
Nathan Hammer (2010)
Amal Dass (2013)
Jared Delcamp (2015)
The 2017 Meeting of the Southeast Theoretical Chemistry Association (SETCA) will be held between May 18-20 at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS.
More information and registration can be found at: http://quantum.chem.olemiss.edu/SETCA_2017
The American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Physical Chemistry recently announced the winners of the 2017 Senior and Early-Career Awards in Theoretical and Experimental Physical Chemistry. Prof. Kit Bowen, E. Emmet Reid Professor of Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, was elected for seminal studies of molecular and cluster anions by negative ion photoelectron (photodetachment) spectroscopy. Prof. Bowen received his Bachelors in Science in Chemistry degree from the University of Mississippi in 1970 and his doctorate from Harvard in 1977 before joining Johns Hopkins in 1980. Prof. Bowen also received a Taylor Medal from the University of Mississippi in 1969. At this coming summer’s ACS National Meeting in Washington, DC, Prof. Bowen will be honored at a special dinner, and separately at a reception where he will receive his award. A half-day symposium will also be organized in Prof. Bowen’s honor, where he will deliver his scientific award address.