Medical scholarship

Millie Denton receiving her $2,000 check.

Millie Denton knew she wanted to be a doctor from the time she started taping ankles at her high school’s football games. Now, the recent Mountain View graduate will attend the University of Arizona in the fall to study neuroscience.

Sofía Hutchings became a certified nursing assistant and licensed caregiver before her graduation from Andrada Polytechnic High School. She’s headed to Pima Community College to start her path toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Both students will take the next steps in their career with help from the Marana Chamber of Commerce. For a third consecutive year, the chamber has provided scholarship money to selected individuals who want to further their education in healthcare.

“The scholarship comes from the Marana Chamber of Commerce, but we get these dollars from our members,” said Audra Winters, the chamber’s CEO and president.

Winters said they created the Health Education Scholarship because local businesses cannot thrive without a high quality of life, and healthcare directly impacts that. It’s the only healthcare scholarship offered by any chamber of commerce in Arizona.

“Some of our members, they would donate like $50 or $100, so everybody was kind of like ‘Hey I can’t give out $500 or $1,000, but here’s $50’ so it’s really nice the way the whole chamber comes together for that,” said Dr. Monica Fowler, chair of the chamber’s Health and Wellness Committee.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 2.4 million new jobs in healthcare between the years 2016 and 2026. It’s projected to be the industry with the fastest growing number of occupations nationwide.

Fowler, who runs her own chiropractic firm on Twin Peaks Road, coordinates the applications and helps choose which applicants should receive the scholarship money.

“This scholarship isn’t just for high school students,” she said. “We actually want to include anybody that wants to further their education. I wanted to open it up to anybody and a lot for kids that kind of fall through the cracks and don’t have the greatest GPAs.”

Recipients could also be current college students enrolled in healthcare programs or working professionals who want to move up in their field.

In the past two years, $4,000  was raised to give in equal amounts to four recipients. This year, the committee was so impressed with Denton and Hutchings’ applications, they decided to split the entire scholarship fund between the two of them.

“We said you know what, instead of trying to make four recipients $1,000 each let’s just give these two the $2,000 each,” Fowler said.

Hutchings has shadowed doctors and support staff at Tucson Medical Center, spent time with dementia patients at the long-term care facility Devon Gables, and bathed newborns in couplet care at St. Joseph’s Hospital. After earning her associate’s degree at Pima, she wants to enroll in Northern Arizona University’s nursing program, which is highly competitive.

“There’s just something about it,” Hutchings said about nursing. “Just the way they describe the job, the way they said you spend a lot of time with patients and I want to do that.”

Denton, who spent three years of high school in a sports medicine program, chose neuroscience after receiving a high grade in her AP Psychology class. She credits her teacher with inspiring her to pursue the field in college.

“We’d be the ones after class, the bell rang and everyone’s gone, and I’m talking to him more about what we talked about in class,” Denton said. 

She wants to focus on neuro research and treating patients with brain injuries. 

Last year’s recipients are all currently in four-year universities studying obstetrics, cardiovascular surgery, psychology and other fields. Fowler and the other committee members hope to increase the amount of money in the scholarship fund in the coming years.

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