Medical student Meliseanna Gibbons is to realise her childhood dream of becoming a doctor debt-free thanks to a scholarship.
Ms Gibbons spent five years as a child in the African country of Cameroon with her missionary family and always wanted to return to the same kind of work.
She felt the best way to do it was as a doctor — but with the end of her medical studies in sight, she ran out of money until a friend nominated her for the Margaret and Robert Harvey Medical Scholarship.
The 29-year-old, from Southampton, said: “I became interested in studying medicine because it was always a desire of mine to return to missionary work.
“From the time I was four years old I lived with my family in Cameroon as a missionary family until I was nine. I felt the best way I could contribute to missions was to return as a physician.”
Ms Gibbons started her medical career as a pre-med student at La Sierra University in California.
“Under this pre-professional umbrella I was enrolled in classes that prepared me for various medical courses,” she said.
“I also spent many hours volunteering at a community hospital in the area and learnt the basics of patient care.”
But a four-month “life-changing” medical mission trip to Peru made her realise that she wanted to actively “pursue working as a physician in underserved parts of the world”.
She was accepted into St George’s School of Medicine in Grenada in 2012 and spent the next two “gruelling” years studying.
She said: “The mental requirements of academia and constant pressure by the school to weed students out pushed me beyond my limits. There were many times I feared I would not make it.
“However, by the grace of God I was able to pass the basic science portion on the island of Grenada and move forward to continue clinical rotations in the US.”
She studied in Miami in the first half of her third year then moved to live in New York City and New Jersey.
She said: “I was always blessed just at the right time with financial support from family, wellwishers and Bermudian sponsors.
“Throughout my undergraduate years, I was blessed to receive funding for tuition from generous Bermudian sponsors.
“However, during this latter part of my medical school journey I exhausted all options to satisfy tuition and living expenses.”
Unaware of her financial situation, her friend Dr Aisha Bassett put her name forward to Dr Margot Harvey, who set up a scholarship for final-year medical students in her parent’s honour six years ago.
Ms Gibbons said: “It was divine intervention that prompted both ladies to respond in my favour.”
“I was deeply moved when I realised that The Robert and Margaret Medical Scholarship will allow me to fulfil my childhood dream debt-free.
“I have been blessed beyond what I could have imagined and have made it my purpose to dedicate my testimony and career to a lifetime commitment of medical service to humanity.
“My commitment will be in honour of many sponsors and supporters like Dr Margot Harvey.”
Dr Harvey said she was impressed that Ms Gibbons used her free time to help others during her studies.
“Medical studies are intense and demanding,” Dr Harvey said. “During her undergraduate and medical training, Meliseanna did missionary work to serve those in need.
“Even though she could have used her downtime to focus on herself, she chose to give back to society. That really impressed me.
“My advice to Meliseanna going forward would be to continue to pursue her passion for learning and to find work-life balance by further developing her musical talents.”
Ms Gibbons, who has an interest in gastroenterology and is currently working in research at the Brooklyn Hospital Centre, will officially receive her diploma in January.
She will be doing an internship in internal medicine at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn until then.
She is set to apply for a US residency position in either internal medicine or family medicine, to start in June 2018.