Lindsay Branch and Sophie El-Mahdy shared a passion for medicine at a young age.
After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, El-Mahdy knew she wanted to become a doctor. Tragically, she never got that chance. She died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism. She was 16.
Since that day, Branch has remained focused on her path. She graduated at the top of her high school class, and when fall classes at UNC Pembroke begin this month, Branch will enter her third year as a pre-med student.
“She was the sweetest and kindest person I’ve ever known,” Branch said. “She cared deeply for others. She wanted to go into medicine, so I feel like I’ve been called to do this in her memory.”
Branch was originally planning to become a pediatrician or family medicine physician. Those plans shifted to oncology during her sophomore year when her mother was diagnosed with phyllodes tumors–– a rare form of breast cancer.
“Seeing the relationships my mom built with her doctors and the way they encouraged her but also understood how difficult her journey was going to be is what inspired me to pursue this field,” she said.
As an Early Assurance Scholar, Branch is guaranteed entry to the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University––among the top medical programs in the state––upon graduation. She has excelled academically while being heavily engaged as a chancellor ambassador, Health Careers Access Program (HCAP) peer advisor, Health Careers Club president and research assistant. She spent seven weeks this summer at Dr. Ben Bahr’s lab researching beef bull cytology alongside her animal science professor Dr. Nicolas Negrin-Pereira.
“I’m so thankful for this tremendous opportunity to be able to pursue my dream,” said Branch, who is from Lumberton. “I’ve grown so much here. When I came here as a freshman, a lot was going on with Covid, but these last three years I’ve developed lifelong friends and gotten to know my professors personally.
“There are not enough words to describe how much this scholarship means. It has opened many doors and showed me how much work it takes to become a physician.”