Amazing Students

Mallory Walters

Mallory Walters has worked in a clinic in South Africa, volunteered in a local hospice and health center, participated in student groups and excelled academically. And she still finds the time to root for her Dawgs.

Hometown:

Augusta, GA

High School:

Westminster Schools of Augusta

Degree objective:

Biology, B.S.

Expected graduation:

December 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

When I walked into orientation four years ago and learned to Call the Dawgs for the first time, I could have never imagined the multitude of experiences UGA would give me that would shape me into who I am today.

The top experience for which I am forever indebted to UGA is the Honors International Scholarship Program. This merit-based scholarship intended for international study supported me on my trip to Cape Town, South Africa. While there, I worked full time at a local clinic alongside doctors and nurses. They taught me about global health care and how to care for patients who did not speak my language.

While I was thrilled to assist this understaffed clinic, I was able to take away even more than I gave. I greatly benefited from the mentorship and guidance of the native nurses and doctors who helped me understand ailments in the cultural context of South Africa. During our free time, we went on safaris, hiked, shark-cage dived off the coast, and road-tripped across Africa.

The weeks I spent working at this clinic confirmed that I was on the right path for me. I returned to the States eager to continue my medical training. Without the support of UGA and the Honors Program, I would have missed out on these adventures that brought me a renewed sense of confidence in my path and purpose for my life.

UGA offered me much more than just international opportunities. In my freshman year, I wanted to get involved in any group that handed me a flyer and a cookie in Tate. I spent a lot of time working on the Events Committee with HEROES, an organization that provides quality-of-life care to kids infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. This experience connected me to some amazing fellow students dedicated to improving their community.

I also spent time in the UGA swing club and spreading the Christmas cheer by taking a child from Athens shopping with Shop with a Bulldawg. But my biggest accomplishment to date is still winning the Tennis Intramural Championship.

One of my greatest in joys in college has been volunteering as a tutor through Whatever It Takes tutoring. Beginning as a tutor and then going on to become head tutor gave me a special opportunity to get a firsthand look at the joy and hopes of the children in the Athens community. Their love for life, desire to learn and stellar dance moves reminded me of the simple joys in life. The Athens community has become very dear to my heart, and I owe these children so much for all they taught me.

My passion for working with people led me to begin volunteering with Compassionate Care Hospice. I provided weekly companionship and support to a hospice patient receiving palliative care. I found such joy in fostering friendship over competitive Scrabble matches and learning life lessons from a wise and charming woman.

My experience with Compassionate Care Hospice taught me how much I enjoy spending time with patients, so I decided to become a certified clinical medical assistant. This training allowed me to work closely with patients as a medical assistant at The Ashford Center, a gynecology and surgery center, where I learned so much from the example of Dr. Ashford.

During this time, I also began volunteering at Mercy Health Center, a primary care clinic that provides free health care to uninsured patients of Athens. As a medical assistant, I worked hands on with the patients who let me be a part of their story. Each week I heard the hardships of lack of access to health care due to socioeconomic status. While this was hard, I also felt hope and pride watching the providers in this community volunteer their time to fight this disparity. 

Wanting to play a larger role, I became a clinic manager, which meant I coordinated with physicians, volunteers and patients while handling a variety of issues that might arise throughout the clinic. Interacting with these patients continues to inspire me to fight this limit on health care accessibility.

Lastly, the biggest highlight of all was meeting my amazing fellow students who tested and sharpened my worldviews, brought me coffee during test weeks, and overall made me a better person.

Current Employment:

Certified clinical medical assistant

Family Ties to UGA:

My family ties to UGA began when my grandfather attended UGA as a biology major in the 1940s. Following in his footsteps, my oldest sister, Melissa McLeroy, earned her BBA in accounting and master’s in accountancy at UGA — and met her future husband, Lance McLeroy. I’m proud to say their new baby has already been sporting UGA gear on game days! While other family members did not attend UGA, they still cheer on the Dawgs every Saturday!

I chose to attend UGA because…

I would be lying if I said that the football culture of UGA did not play a large role in my decision to attend UGA. I didn’t want to miss out on those fall Saturdays in Athens with the UGA family cheering on the Dawgs. To me, it’s about something so much greater than football; it’s about being a part of a dedicated community who shows up every Saturday to support their team.

In complete honesty, I was initially skeptical of the large size of this university. Coming from a small high school, I highly valued the relationships I built with my teachers and the tight-knit community I had formed among friends. Thankfully, UGA has offered all this to me and more. After visiting UGA, I was in awe of how much these professors cared about not only teaching their students, but also befriending them. Also, since I was pursuing a science degree, I wanted a university that was on the forefront of new research. The results from new research were integrated into our curriculum ensuring that all students were aware of new scientific developments.

On top of that, I knew that the Honors Program would give me extra personal attention and unique opportunities. The Zell Miller Scholarship and Charter Scholarship seemed to confirm that this was the right place for me.
Lastly, after one visit to Athens, I fell in love with the vibrant town, the amazing restaurants and the music scene. I have never regretted my decision to call this town and university home.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

Nothing beats cheering on the Dawgs with 92,746 of your closest friends in Sanford Stadium! I’m proud to say I’ve never left a game early, and my roommates and I have plans to see every game during our last season as undergrads. During the week, I love grabbing a Niche pizza from Tate and strolling through North Campus. Sitting on one of the benches near Herty fountain reminds me to appreciate the beauty of this campus which can sometimes be overlooked in everyday life.

When I have free time, I like…

During my rare free time, I love road-tripping. Whether to visit friends or to watch the Dawgs play, I love adventuring to new places. (This would explain the 6,000 miles I added to my car this past summer.) I also love hiking, reading John Grisham books on my front porch, walking around Athens, eating Taq cheese dip, and cooking new recipes.

The craziest thing I've done is…

… rent an industrial van and road-trip across South Africa with seven friends and no GPS. This week-long trip taken between weeks working in a local clinic involved cave explorations, watching sunrise at the southernmost tip of Africa, cliff jumping, feeding elephants, kayaking, jumping off the highest bungee jump in the world, and sharing hostels with other foreign road-trippers. This trip taught me how endless possibilities await those who are ready to leave their comfort zone. Needless to say, I only told my parents about this trip when I was back home.

My favorite place to study is…

While I have logged countless hours on the third floor of the science library, my favorite place to study is Two Story Coffee House. I love sitting on the second floor in front of the windows overlooking the street. Those lattes gave me the strength to endure organic chemistry, and I will forever be thankful for that. I am also grateful for the other coffee lovers there who are always willing to take excessive amounts of study breaks with me. Sadly, Two Story is leaving Five Points soon, but they can be sure I’ll be one of the first customers when they re-open no matter where they move to!

My favorite professor is…

The professors at UGA go beyond their duties as teachers; they become mentors and friends ready to share their wisdom, knowledge and passions with students.

One professor in particular has played a huge role in my college experience. Since freshman year, Dr. Espelie has constantly encouraged me to dream big and believed in me when I did not. The countless hours spent in his office after changing my major three times, the conversations about the health care system over golden bowls at the Grit, and his constant support through this application process have benefited my college experience and future career immensely. If you ever get the chance to walk in his office and see the pictures and letters from his past students covering his walls, you may catch a glimpse into how many lives he has blessed with his genuine hospitality, wise advice and kind heart.

A few other teachers who will never know the full impact they had on me are Dr. Robinson for letting me be his accomplice when pranking his Chemistry class, Dr. Weaver for making learning come to life, Dr. Nichols for loving Anatomy more than UGA students love free food, Dr. Bedell for her immense knowledge in genetics, and Dr. Stanton for learning every student’s name in the first week of school.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Walt Disney. He possessed the unique ability to truly see his dream as a reality and not just a distant possibility. When Disney World finally opened five years after Walt passed away, someone turned to his wife and asked, “Isn’t a shame that Walt didn’t live to see this?” She replied, “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.” I would love to spend an afternoon walking through his parks to hear how he made his idea of “if you can dream it, you can do it” a reality. This kind of vision is awe-inspiring, and it has changed my perspective on how I view success. I believe there’s great potential in our ability to effect change if we employ a confidence like Walt’s to make progress that will not be appreciated until after our lifetimes.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… implement a system that provides clean water for everyone. I have seen how easily diseases are spread through unsanitary water, and I believe that easy access to clean water is a right that everyone has.

After that, I would probably climb Mount Everest.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… travel the world and really immerse myself in each culture I visited. Since the moment my parents put me on a plane at 3 months old, I have appreciated the cultures, food, sights, conversations and adventures waiting out there in the world for me. My first stop would be to the elephant sanctuary in Thailand!

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

Since I was raised by a doctor and a nurse, my passion for medicine began around the dinner table as I eagerly listened to my dad and mom talk about their different cases they worked on each day. I took note of how they combined their compassionate hearts and love for science to help those around them.

My passion for the health care field has not waned since these early exposures. Thankfully, my perspective and understanding have matured and grown to match this passion.

After working in the medical field in underserved communities both locally and abroad, I have taken a special interest in expanding medical care to those who do not have proper access. I have already begun pursuing this passion while volunteering at Mercy Health Center, a clinic that gives free care to uninsured patients. My mentors there have shown me the logistics and heart required for this mission, and I plan to follow in their steps.

After graduation, I plan to…

… backpack Europe for a few weeks then become a physician assistant! While I am still undecided about where I will attend PA school next year, I am excited about taking on this new adventure! Ever since shadowing a neurosurgery PA in high school, I have been working consistently toward this dream. As a PA, I hope to integrate scientific knowledge, compassion and leadership into each patient interaction while expanding health care to those who lack access in the community.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to South Bend, Indiana, to watch the Dawgs play Notre Dame. Seeing half the Notre Dame stadium filled with that Georgia red reminded me of my community that extends far beyond just Athens. When every Georgia fan raised the four fingers for our glorious fourth quarter tradition, I had chills watching my UGA family come together, even in a different state.

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