School of Medicine Student Ashley McNeal Completes Paul Ambrose Scholars Service Project

Ashley McNeal

MACON – Mercer University School of Medicine fourth-year student Ashley McNeal recently completed her yearlong community-based project for the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research (APTR) Paul Ambrose Scholars Program.

McNeal, a 2019 Paul Ambrose Scholar, organized the Mercer W.E.S.T. (Walk, Eat, Shop and Talk) program, held every third Wednesday at Mulberry Market in Tattnall Square Park to promote healthy lifestyles with nutritious diets and regular exercise.

The program invited families of students from nearby Alexander II Elementary School to participate in an exercise activity, talk to medical students about healthy lifestyles, taste test a seasonal fresh fruit or vegetable and shop at the market for produce using a $2 coupon provided to each student.

At Mercer W.E.S.T.’s kickoff event in March 2019, 41 families attended, including 63 children and eight vendors. Over the course of the year, the program’s 20-plus volunteers reached more than 400 parents and students, while Mulberry Market expanded to include 16 vendors due to increased attendance.

“I am so pleased to see how Ashley has used this unique scholarship opportunity to strengthen her skills as a servant leader, and I have no doubt that she will continue to fulfill the MUSM mission to address the needs of rural and underserved populations,” said Keisha R. Callins, M.D., MPH, clinical assistant professor in the School of Medicine.

The Paul Ambrose Scholars Program prepares public health and clinical health professions students to promote change and be leaders in addressing population health challenges at the national and community level. Each year, the program invites a cohort of 40 students from across the health professions to its Student Leadership Symposium, which McNeal attended in March 2019 in Columbus, Ohio.

Scholars commit their time and effort to improve health within their communities through the planning and implementation of a community-based project, helping them to cultivate leadership and organizational skills in public health education outside of the classroom.

In addition to her work with the Paul Ambrose Scholars Program, McNeal, along with Dr. Callins and Larry Nichols, M.D., professor and interim chair of pathology, recently co-authored a paper, titled “A Psychiatrist with Postoperative Anxiety After Hysterectomy: How Could This Be Fatal?,” published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Cureus.

The authors presented a case of hysterectomy with postoperative complications that led to a fatal outcome and how the autopsy revealed the cause of death and clinicopathologic correlation suggested multiple lessons for patient safety.

“Ashley demonstrated a great work ethic and a real passion for learning in preparing a poster presentation and then publication of our case with important lessons for patient care,” said Dr. Nichols.

“Ashley is a rock star. While pursuing her medical education, she is balancing her family, as well as her interest in scholarly research and community engagement,” added Dr. Callins. “It takes a village to raise a physician, and I’m happy to be a part of her village.”

About Mercer University School of Medicine (Macon, Savannah and Columbus)

Mercer University’s School of Medicine was established in 1982 to educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia. Today, more than 60 percent of graduates currently practice in the state of Georgia, and of those, more than 80 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas of Georgia. Mercer medical students benefit from a problem-based medical education program that provides early patient care experiences. Such an academic environment fosters the early development of clinical problem-solving and instills in each student an awareness of the place of the basic medical sciences in medical practice. The School opened a full four-year campus in Savannah in 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center. In 2012, the School began offering clinical education for third- and fourth-year medical students in Columbus. Following their second year, students participate in core clinical clerkships at the School’s primary teaching hospitals: Medical Center, Navicent Health in Macon; Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The School also offers master’s degrees in family therapy, preclinical sciences and biomedical sciences and a Ph.D. in rural health sciences.