To Your Health: Local woman wins heart association scholarship
BY THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION August 6, 2013 1:00PM
Updated: September 8, 2013 6:13AM
Oak Forest native Mary Witherspoon, a graduate student in nursing at Chicago State University, is a winner of the Go Red for Women Multicultural Scholarship given by the American Heart Association and Macy’s.
The scholarship program, which is in its fourth year, encourages greater inclusion of multicultural women in medical, nursing and allied health studies.
Witherspoon was inspired to study nursing after the death of her son 12 years ago.
Feeling lost and looking for direction, she decided to enroll in a nursing program at Chicago State University.
A strong student academically, Witherspoon struggled with the clinical portion of the program because it served as a reminder of her own son’s health struggles and what she had lost. Feeling grateful as she recalled the wonderful care her son and entire family had received before his death, she found the strength to continue pursuing her goal.
“I was able to see my patients as people who really needed help during a difficult time … People who were not only sick in their bodies but had other difficulties as well,” she said.
Financial problems, family issues, loneliness and a general lack of information about following a healthy lifestyle were the many struggles Witherspoon witnessed in her nursing work.
“I sometimes found it hard to believe the lack of knowledge about heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses that these patients were dealing with,” Witherspoon said.
To help combat this lack of knowledge, Witherspoon has focused her career on health education and prevention and aims to improve access to care for people in underserved communities.
She frequently turns to the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and other nonprofits for materials and information to help educate people about their specific health risks.
After several years of work in the field, Witherspoon has returned to Chicago State University to pursue a master’s of science in nursing, with an emphasis on community health.
With a daughter in college and the costs of her own education mounting, the Go Red Multicultural Scholarship Fund will help Witherspoon continue to reach this important group with lifesaving information and care.
Demand on health care continues to increase, but the number of multicultural women working in U.S. hospitals and medical schools is low, even as the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse.
Research shows that several ethnic groups — including African-Americans and Hispanics — are disproportionately affected by cardiovascular disease and risk factors. They also confront barriers to diagnosis and care and experience worse health outcomes than their Caucasian counterparts.
The Go Red Multicultural Scholarship aims to ensure women have access to health care providers who understand their culture and help make the best choices that lead to good health.
The program also strives to increase diversity in the health care industry for the future health of all women.
The American Heart Association and Macy’s will offer scholarships again in 2014.
Through the Go Red for Women Multicultural Scholarship Fund, a total of 16 $2,500 scholarships will be awarded to talented and diverse women from across the country.
To qualify, a woman must be of minority origin; a U.S. citizen; enrolled in an accredited college, university, health care institution or program in the U.S. and be pursuing a career in health care with a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average GPA.
Students interested in applying should visit www.GoRedforWomen.org. Applications are due Dec. 30.