Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars program. The ARH Scholars are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare. Their stories are unique, but a common thread unites every winner: a desire to make a difference to the people of Appalachia through healthcare. The spring 2019 class of ARH Scholars includes 11 future healthcare providers.
Taylor Herrell was graduated from Letcher County Central High School. She’s making plans to continue her studies as a chemistry pre-medical student at the University of Pikeville, where she hopes to graduate in the spring of 2023, before heading on to the Kentucky College of Optometry. While she had been considering optometry for some time, it was actually a viral video on social media that sealed the deal for Herrell: “I know this sounds crazy, but I saw a video about this little girl getting glasses, and being able to see clearly just made her day. Seeing how glasses made that little girl really happy just confirmed that’s what I wanted to do.”
Her interest in medicine has been largely inspired by her family, as both of her parents are in the medical field. Her mother works as a nurse midwife, and her father as a nurse anesthetist. “I’ve always seen them working to help other people,” Herrell said. “Sometimes I would have to go to the hospital with them, and I always loved that environment.
It’s great to see people helping people, especially in the small community that we have.” Herrell says that her family’s insistence that she follow her dreams and constant support have been hugely inspirational.
In addition to her parents, Herrell credits the Letcher County Central High School guidance counselors with pushing her towards her goals. “The guidance counselors encouraged me to do whatever I could to succeed… and to apply for a ton of scholarships.”
It makes perfect sense then that she was recently awarded an educational scholarship from Appalachian Regional Healthcare. Her mother, who used to work at an ARH hospital, brought the scholarship to her attention, and she couldn’t wait to apply. Her reaction when she won? “I was really overwhelmed and excited! I couldn’t believe it, honestly.”
As she prepares for her next step, she looks forward to someday returning to her hometown of Jenkins to practice.
“I want to stay close to home. I’ve never really been attracted to the idea of moving to a big city,” said Herrell. “I just love the people here and I love how everybody gets along with each other. Jenkins is a really small rural community where everyone knows each other. It’s nice to see someone you know everywhere you go. I want to give back to my community and help those who have helped me to succeed.”