Freshman Samantha Locklear's path from UNC Pembroke to medical school has been prearranged thanks to hard work, dedication, and a unique partnership with UNCP and one of the top medical schools in the state.
Locklear is the 2022 Early Assurance Scholar. Considered one of UNCP's prestigious four-year merit awards, the Early Assurance Program pays for tuition, books and room and board, but more importantly, guarantees acceptance to East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.
An aspiring doctor, Locklear plans to return to her native Robeson County with the goal of improving the health of populations, particularly those in rural communities.
"If I can make even the smallest difference in my community, then I will be doing something good with my life," Locklear said. "I feel the need to try to better my community. Helping others is my passion."
The UNCP-Brody partnership allows for up to two seats to be reserved four years in advance for outstanding students interested in attending UNCP for their undergraduate studies.
The program is part of ECU's outreach into rural communities to further its mission of training doctors who will choose to practice in underserved areas. It is one of several academic partnerships the university has with the country's top-rated medical, professional schools and graduate programs.
UNCP has been strategic in developing successful pathway programs, including civil and mechanical engineering programs and the nationally ranked veterinary program at N.C. State, the Physician's Assistant program at Methodist University and Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
“The pathways and partnerships we’ve formed to medical and professional programs offer an incredible advantage to UNCP students who have goals set to enter competitive fields,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
“These pathways are all about the students and their future success. Samantha will join the list of many others who have benefitted from the personalized educational opportunity offered here at UNCP and go on and gain a guaranteed seat in a highly sought-after spot in medical school.”
Locklear follows in the footsteps of former Early Assurance Scholar Yaqot Nasser, a first-year ECU medical student. Other UNCP alumni Katy Flax, Dan Middleton, Piper Lizak, Austin Locklear, Ashley Reeves and Ereny Gerges are also matriculating through Brody.
Locklear was a standout and honor student, graduating top four of her class at Robeson Early College. She was a member of the National Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, Beta Club and a North Carolina Scholar. She also volunteered at four medical facilities, including Fresenius Dialysis Treatment Center.
"Since the age of 15, I knew what I wanted to do,” said Locklear, better known as Sam. “Originally, I wanted to be a PA, but my dad told me there would be many more job opportunities and the scope of authority that comes with being a doctor. I've always wanted to be in the medical field, and I haven't looked back."
Dr. Cedric Bright, associate dean for Admissions and interim vice dean at Brody, said the Early Assurance program partnership with UNCP is an important relationship that has continued to produce results since its inception in 2011.
"The activities selected students engage in help ensure representation and preparedness of those often under-represented in medicine," Bright said.
"More importantly, these students often return to their communities to render professional services in health professional shortage areas. For these reasons, we value this relationship and program as it simultaneously strengthens the people and the community."
The Brody award is a significant contributor to expanding the number of rural health physicians in our underserved areas, according to UNC Health Southeastern President and CEO Chris Ellington.
"When students from this area decide to train to become a physician, they bring a unique perspective to the bedside that enables them to relate to the background of the patient and the diverse culture that we celebrate in our region," Ellington said.
Locklear said she is grateful to be selected and for becoming a step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a physician.
"It's a surreal feeling. I'm excited to see what the future holds!"
Dr. Richard Gay, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the Brody partnership is one of many ways UNCP influences the health of North Carolinians. The partnership not only transforms the lives of our Brody Scholars but also future generations of their families and patients.
"The vast impact they will have on healthcare in southeastern North Carolina is significant and far-reaching. Together we're building a brighter, healthier future. Samantha is now part of that important legacy," Gay continued.
For more information about the pathway opportunities available at UNCP, visit uncp.edu/pathways.