July 5, 2010

Aspiring Doctor Wins National Scholarship

VALDOSTA -- News of his mother's breast cancer diagnosis three weeks ago has only fueled Sean Walsh’s drive to become a doctor. The 19-year-old is one of 200 aspiring minority health care professionals who received scholarships from the United Health Foundation (UHF) -- a not-for-profit dedicated to expanding access to quality health care services. Walsh, who was awarded $8,000 in September, hopes to study either neurology or oncology after he graduates in 2013 with a dual degree in biology and English.

“I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be a doctor when I was a young child. She would say, ‘Are you sure? It is a difficult journey,’ but I knew I wanted to help people,” said Walsh, who will use the scholarship money to pay for tuition and books. “Seeing people in my family deal with medical issues has made this pursuit an emotional one. And lately, I have felt the call to be a doctor even more as I take care of my mother. She is now my fuel to go after this dream even harder.”

Walsh joined the other Diverse Scholars Initiative recipients in late June at a three-day gathering in Washington, D.C., where the students -- who demonstrated financial need and a desire to work with underserved communities -- interacted with policy makers and learned about issues facing the industry. Jeannine Rivet, interim president of United Health Foundation, said various organizations partnered to fund these scholarships as a way to support those who want to impact the future of the nation’s health care system.

“These outstanding scholars reflect the rich diversity of our country,” said Rivet, also executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group. “Helping to support and develop these diverse, future health care leaders is one way that United Health Foundation works to improve our communities’ and our nation’s health and well-being.”

The trip to D.C. was a first for Walsh, who was born in Brookly, N.Y. He moved to Atlanta at the age of 7 after his father, an executive limo driver, fell in love with the city during the 1996 Olympic Games. The family has since settled into Loganville, Ga. When it came time to attend college, Walsh didn’t waver.

“I love this campus. It is so beautiful. The biology program is top notch, and I have enjoyed taking classes in the professional writing track to help with postdoctoral research and scholarly articles,” Walsh said. “Valdosta has welcomed me with open arms, and I have been able to be close enough to my family, which has been especially good since my mom fell ill.”

Walsh is focused on medical school -- debating whether to go to George Washington, Howard or Emory universities. But when he is not planning out his future, the tenor is likely singing with the VSU Mass Choir or at an XChange Ministries Bible study. The self-taught piano player also loves listening to classic music and writing short stories in his spare time.

“I have so many interests, but health care definitely takes center stage,” said Walsh. “I have a younger sister, Victoria, who is 17. She wants to be a pharmacist, so I guess we will take on the health care industry by storm.”

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