Southeast Pre-Med Student Accepted Into Prestigious Medical School Program



Sept. 22, 2008 – A Southeast Missouri State University student has been accepted into the University of Missouri-Columbia Medical School’s Bryant’s Scholar Program.

Sarah Kapala of Concordia, Mo., recently was admitted to the program. She is a sophomore majoring in biology with a biomedical sciences, or pre-med option and minors in chemistry and Spanish.

The Bryant’s Scholar preadmission program was established in 1995 to allow students to receive their undergraduate degrees in their region, while at the same time preparing them to attend medical school at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said Dr. James Champine, director of the pre-medicine program at Southeast and associate professor of biology.

“It is part of a strategy to encourage young people from rural areas to pursue a medical education, as these students are more likely to practice in a rural area,” he said.

Champine says he was very pleased when Kapala approached him about applying for the Bryant Scholar Pre-admission Program.

“The program is for highly qualified students from rural areas. The goal is to train primary care physicians who will serve those rural areas,” he said. “Sarah made herself aware of the program and was very conscientious about preparing her materials.”

Kapala said, “It’s really a great opportunity. I want to practice rural medicine. That’s what the program is aimed it.”

Dr. Michael Taylor, Southeast assistant professor of biology, wrote a letter of recommendation for Kapala as part of her application for the program. In his letter, Taylor “stressed her excellent analytical ability and curiosity,” Champine said.

Kapala, who is a member of the Golden Eagles Marching Band at Southeast, was required to interview for admission to the program outside of the normal interview times because of the band’s trip to Scotland this summer.

Kristen Kleffner from the University of Missouri Area Health Education Center helped arrange the interview and coached Kapala through the selection process, he said.

“Ms. Kleffner indicated early on in the process how impressive Sarah’s personality and preparation was. Even before the announcement of the award, Ms. Kleffner said that the selection committee was very impressed with her as a future physician,” Champine said. “It is a pleasure to work with such a bright young person. She is another in a long line of great biomedical students we have had here at Southeast.”

The Bryant’s Scholar Program reserves admission to the University of Missouri Medical School if students maintain a high level of academic performance for the remainder of their undergraduate studies. To be considered for the program, students must demonstrate at minimum a 3.3 grade point average (GPA) and ACT scores of 30 or SAT scores of 1300. Bryant’s Scholars are expected to participate in rural medicine after they complete their residencies. The program is highly selective, according to Champine.

“It takes a lot of the stress out of applying to medical school,” said Kapala, now that she’s been admitted to the Bryant’s Scholars program.

Now, she said, she will continue to focus on performing well academically.

Bryant Scholars “are exceptional candidates,” Champine said. They meet the rigorous GPA and ACT/SAT criteria, have hundreds of hours of volunteer and medical shadowing experience, and are leaders in a number of on-campus organizations and off-campus service activities.

Kapala is a 2007 of Concordia High School. At Southeast, she is a member of the Student Medical Society and is active with Campus Outreach, a Christian organization. She also is employed by CNA as a home health care aide.

Kapala follows three Southeast students who were admitted into the prestigious Bryant Scholars program in 2006. Tara O’Conner, of Ingleside, Texas; Andrew Valleroy, of Hillsboro, Mo.; and Andrew Jackson, of Piedmont, Mo.; were all admitted to the program as sophomores majoring in biology with a biomedical sciences, or pre-med option. These three students plan to graduate from Southeast this academic year and will enter medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia next fall.

After completing medical school, both O’Conner and Jackson say they plan to practice pediatrics, while Valleroy plans to enter a family medical practice. All three said the hours they spent shadowing at hospitals and volunteering helped prepare them for their pre-med studies, and they encourage other students interested in pre-med to do the same.

“The more time I spent in the hospital shadowing physicians and volunteering, the more sure I was that this is what I want to do,” O’Conner has said.

“I would advise other students who are interested in pre-med to work hard, not only in school, but in the community,” Valleroy has said. “Becoming a physician is about helping people, and if you can go the extra mile and participate in selfless acts of community service, it really shows you are dedicated. It is easy to get discouraged, but persistence is key.”