We recently announced the 2021 recipients of the BlueCross Power of We Scholarship, which recognizes outstanding students working to promote equity in the health care field.
This story is part of a series profiling each of this year’s six winners.
Having a sibling in health care was a blessing and a curse for Miko McDowell. She admired her older sister for her work as an ICU nurse, but as a fiercely independent person, Miko knew it was important for her to find her own calling.
“I spent a long time running from the nursing profession,” says Miko. “I wanted to do something where I could use my skills and my personality, and I loved the personal aspect of caring for patients. But I wanted to do it in a way that was different from my sister.”
Doing things her way
Miko found that through Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), a program at her high school that exposes youth to health care careers. Emergency medicine, surgery, physical therapy, nursing — Miko got a front-row seat to it all. One semester, she even got to pull on scrubs and go into the hospital to observe the professionals in action. That was all it took.
“I saw the nurses doing everything I wanted to do in terms of hands-on care,” Miko says. “They were able to care for patients in a way I hadn’t seen any other professionals do. Seeing that early on was such a blessing. Most high school students don’t get that opportunity.”
As Miko enters senior year, she’s already got hands-on experience of her own. She works as a patient care assistant at Baptist Memorial Hospital (Baptist East) on a med-surg/telemetry unit. She does hourly rounds, ensures patients are positioned correctly and not in pain, helps them if they need to go to the bathroom, and changes their linens. It’s been excellent preparation for daily patient care, Miko says, especially this year.
“I started in June 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, which has been really interesting and challenging,” she says. “My unit quickly turned into a COVID unit, so I learned all about personal protective equipment (PPE) and focusing on fewer patients with specific needs. I definitely got a lot more experience than I was expecting during that time!”
Overall, med-surg has been a good fit for Miko because it’s helped her build the foundational skills she’ll need as a nurse. Over the summer, she’s continued to build her leadership skills as a counselor at a camp in East Tennessee run by her youth pastor. It’s important to Miko that, wherever her nursing career takes her, she’s able to feed all of her interests.
“Ultimately I realize that nursing really does encompass every passion I have,” she says. “If I want to work with children, I can do that. If I want to go into the mission field, I can do that. If I want to teach, I can become a professor. Nursing gives me every option I want in life. I’m glad I didn’t let the fact that my sister walked this path before me change my plans.”
Support along the way
For Miko, family will always be a driving force in how she lives her life. She has two sisters — one older, one younger — who she could not be closer to despite coming together in Memphis from the other side of the world.
“My sisters and I were all adopted from different geographic regions in China. We’re not biologically related, but we definitely act like we are!” Miko says, laughing. “Our friends are always saying, ‘Y’all have such similar facial expressions or mannerisms. Are you sure you’re not blood related?’ So, that’s kind of cool to see.”
Miko is grateful to have the support of her family as she enters the final phase of her undergraduate education, and for the financial support she’s getting from the BlueCross Power of We Scholarship.
“It is a lifesaver, a lifeline, a life-changer! It means I don’t have to work as much during the semester, so I can focus on school. And it also gives me the freedom to do things like volunteer at a vaccine clinic, which helps me gain experience in other fields that I wouldn’t get through school.
“It has always been my prayer for God to provide financially, emotionally, spiritually and even academically. Lately, my prayer has been for him to provide financially, and I know the BlueCross Power of We Scholarship is how he’s doing it. I could not be more excited or more grateful going into my senior year, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
About the BlueCross Power of We Scholarship
- Each year, the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation awards $10,000 scholarships to minority students pursuing degrees in health care.
- Recipients are chosen in collaboration with the National Association of Health Services Executives (NAHSE) – Memphis Chapter.
- The goal of these scholarships is to help reduce health disparities by improving diversity in the state’s health care workforce and combating systemic racism and injustice.
- Since 2013, the foundation has awarded $285,000 to students leading the charge.
- This year, the BlueCross Foundation awarded 6 scholarships to students across the state.
For more information, see BCBSTnews.com/scholarship.