Amazing Students

Elizabeth White

Elizabeth White, a senior psychology major and future physician assistant, has taken full advantage of the opportunities available to her to pursue her goal of providing more accessible health care to those currently overlooked in the medical field due to location or lack of insurance.

Hometown:

Suwanee, Georgia

High School:

Greater Atlanta Christian School

Degree objective:

B.S. in psychology, minor in biology.

Expected graduation:

May 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Every Christmas my mom and I work together to solve a jigsaw puzzle. The beginning is always the most difficult as we struggle to see how the first few disjointed pieces will lead to the final picture. My experience at UGA mirrors this experience with my mom. Entering my freshman year, I found hundreds of different opportunities before me, and I’m amazed to see how the pieces have fit together to create my college experience. Throughout this journey, I’ve grown in ways I never thought possible and learned from the most brilliant people. Any of my achievements in completing this puzzle are a result of those who have encouraged and taught me along the way. I express my utmost gratitude to my professors, peers and parents who believed in me before I could see the final picture.

The summer after my freshman year, UGA provided one of the most challenging learning environments I have ever been exposed to through the Ghana Service Learning study abroad program. Throughout our six-week trip, we provided health screenings and nutrition education to hundreds of rural and inner city Ghanaians. We also devoted time conducting malaria screenings, administering vaccinations, filling prescriptions at the children’s hospital, and aiding in the labor and delivery ward of the general hospital in Ghana’s capital, Accra. I had never been pushed more out of my comfort zone than I was in these six weeks, yet I am forever grateful for the impact it had on me. This experience further ignited my passion for medical missions while also showing me how much more I still have to learn to tackle these complex issues. Since returning home, I’ve sought out opportunities to learn about the dynamics of international aid. This has been evident through my community involvement and coursework at UGA, such as Dr. Maria Navarro’s “Reflections on Solving World Hunger” class my senior year. I continue to independently study these topics and look forward to learning more perspectives in the next step of my education.

Through my involvement in my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, and our Breast Cancer Education and Awareness philanthropy, I became further interested in the specific area of women’s health. I have been able to explore this area of medicine firsthand since being hired as a medical assistant for one of Athens’ most respected OB/GYNs, Dr. Clinton Ashford. My time spent with Dr. Ashford and his team has taught me some of the most important aspects of patient care: to take the time to educate patients and not simply dictate, to work as a team on a treatment plan, and to instill confidence and comfort in a patient’s ability to make positive changes in her health. This knowledge used in my daily patient interactions has deepened my desire for quality, personal care when I become a medical provider. 

The greatest highlight of my college career is my experience at Mercy Health Center, a Christian free primary care clinic in Athens devoted to providing medical attention for uninsured patients. The betterment of my fellow human beings is what fuels me to pursue the medical field as I want to do my part in ensuring that all people can get the care that they deserve. My passion for health care availability despite socioeconomic status has continued to develop through my involvement in Mercy.

I began at Mercy liaising between patients and providers by reviewing medical instruction with the patient to ensure comprehension and later triaging weekly as the triage team leader. I now hold the clinic manager position, in which I organize all clinic activities during the evenings. I have learned the expectations of running a doctor’s office by coordinating with physicians and resolving conflicts. During the personal interactions I’ve had at Mercy, I’ve spoken with patients who have felt ignored by society. Mercy, however, is a place where patients feel validated in their right to quality health care. Providing whole person care in the name of Jesus Christ has had a great impact on me and will continue to propel me forward in my career as a physician assistant.

Current Employment:

Medical assistant at the Ashford Center in Five Points.

Family Ties to UGA:

The daughter of two Georgia Tech graduates, “Go Dawgs” was not a phrase heard often in our household. So far, my grandfather is my closest UGA graduate; however, I hope my army of red and black continues to grow each year for the UGA vs GT game.

I chose to attend UGA because…

… the city of Athens inspired me. After visiting 13 colleges in six states, I quickly realized the opportunities at UGA through the greater community were incomparable. UGA is also one of the few institutions that ensure a top-notch education at an affordable price, with quality SEC sports in between. Lastly, the individual attention guaranteed by the Honors Program created a small community that truly made UGA feel like home.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

While reading near Lake Herrick, treating myself to a frosted coffee from Chick-fil-A and hugging Ms. Sandra on the way into Snelling are a few of my favorites, nothing can compare to exhilaration felt by the 92,746 Dawg fans between the hedges on a Saturday night.

When I have free time, I like…

… baking peanut butter fudge brownies for my friends, fishing in UGA’s Whitehall forest, running through the beautiful Athens neighborhoods, grabbing oysters with my parents at Seabear, or picking up an extra shift at Mercy Health Center.

The craziest thing I've done is…

… travel to Ghana for a medical trip in the height of the Ebola crisis. While my family was deeply concerned for my safety the entirety of our trip, my fear was eclipsed by my desire to serve the west Africa community. Through Dr. Alex Anderson’s guidance and our team’s diligence, we were able to supply much needed medical attention and hope to the people of Ghana in a time when it was needed most.

My favorite place to study is…

I’ve clocked countless late night hours on the second floor MLC white board tables studying with my future medical colleagues. However, I prefer sitting outside of the Starbucks downtown when I can afford to leisurely study. I always meet new people there from many backgrounds which serves as a welcomed study break.

My favorite professor is…

Karl Espelie has by far been the most instrumental in my college career since the very beginning. From my first three-hour advising session, to organizing field trips to the medical school, to group dinner parties at his personal home, and to helping narrow my personal statement from 1,500 words to 1,500 characters a day before my due date, Dr. Espelie has continued to serve his students above and beyond the call of duty. As evidenced by the Amazing Students page alone, my story of Dr. Espelie is not alone. He is the most amazing cheerleader UGA has seen and I can truly say I would not be where I am today if it were not for him.

Secondly, Alex Kojo Anderson has served as a bright light along my undergraduate journey. Few professors can accurately teach the difficult topics of health care disparity and human morality in the way that Kojo can. He opened my eyes to realities I had not yet seen, synthesized my jumbled thoughts on this newfound knowledge, and pushed me forward into my unknown future. I am forever grateful for his influence on me through our trip to Africa that summer.

A few other noteworthy professors are Gregory Robinson for his commitment to coaching me through the battlefield that is “Honors General Chemistry I,” Jodie Lyon for expanding my mind and encouraging challenging discourse of the Bible in her religion classes, Maria Navarro for her contagious passion of helping those most stricken by poverty in her “Solving World Hunger” course, and lastly, Eddie Green, for his patience with my poor swing in his “Intermediate Golf” class.

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

… Morgan Freeman. Not only have I always been impressed with his deep, grandfatherly voice, but also his humility despite his great talents. Arguably, one of the most admirable qualities he possesses is his ability to communicate wisdom while maintaining a warm, approachable disposition. I hope to equally convey both of these characteristics as a health care provider and would greatly benefit from learning his keys to success.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… find a cure for malaria. Malaria currently affects 3.3 billion people in this world, with the majority of these being children under the age of 5 and in areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Since the symptoms are flu-like, many infected do not seek medical attention until it is too late. Having witnessed the devastating effects of malaria in my short time abroad, I would go to great lengths to end this suffering.

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

… have a potluck dinner with all the inhabitants of the world! Few activities bring people together like sharing a meal does and there is no better way to truly experience culture than tasting the foods of their land. The dish I would bring for everyone is Popeye’s fried chicken, because who doesn’t love some good Southern fast food?

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

The culmination of my experiences drives me to one particular goal: providing more accessible health care to those currently overlooked in the medical field due to location or lack of insurance. After spending time in various cultures across five continents, I have found that one reality that ties us all together is our mortality. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of this world has the education or resources to combat this reality. I want to be a physician assistant because I will gain the ability to fight this health care injustice at a high level, while also maintaining the flexibility to change my specialty to better suit the community’s needs.

After graduation, I plan to…

… become a physician assistant! While I have not yet decided on a school, I am very excited about the reality of pursuing my goals in a new city with a new community surrounding me. Becoming a PA allows me to be a lifelong learner through intellectual stimulation and relational empowerment. It is truly a gift seeing the dreams I painted when I was 16 come to fruition, and is one that I do not take for granted.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… either scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, polar plunging at the base of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, camping in the Outback, summiting a mountain outside of Queenstown in the middle of a snowstorm, or crouching through a real African Safari. The study abroad programs at UGA are exhilarating and truly bring learning to life. I am a better citizen of the world because of these opportunities through UGA.

Published Sunday,