Friday, January 8, 2010

Jamie Caudill First Recipient of Regan Robinson Scholarship

For Jamie Caudill, 2007 was a year of extremes. The excitement of reaching her goal of entering medical school was tempered by the news of a massive tornado that ripped a 200-yard path of destruction through her hometown of Enterprise, Ala.

Soon after entering her first year at the University of South Alabama, Caudill watched in shock as news reports detailed the destruction the tornado, classified as one of the strongest and most costly in Alabama history, only two blocks from the house where she grew up. The tornado led to the deaths of nine children and is estimated to have caused more than $300 million in damages.

Though community organizations provided survivors with necessities, Caudill still saw a need to help those affected by the tornado when she saw the damage it had caused not only to the physical buildings of Enterprise, but also to the town’s way of life.

“To go home and see a path of destruction through the town,” said Caudill, who personally knew some of the families who had lost relatives. “It did something to me and made me want to try to get things back to the way they were before.”

Caudill spearheaded a drive to collect school supplies for Enterprise students to help them return to some sense of normalcy. Though she said she expected support from her medical school class, Caudill had no way of anticipating that her efforts would generate an overwhelming response from the entire USA community. Caudill ended up driving a U-Haul filled with school supplies back to her hometown.

“The whole experience revived my belief that people do care about people they don’t even know,” Caudill said. “I expected people from my class to participate, but we got support from the whole community. People really do care and want to do the right thing.”

Caudill’s humanitarian efforts in southeast Alabama were recently recognized with her selection as the first recipient of the Regan Robinson Scholarship, created by the class of 2009 to honor the memory of a medical student who passed away. Caudill said that she is both honored and humbled to be the first to receive the award, but she is also saddened by the loss Robinson’s family and friends experienced.

The Regan Robinson Young Scholarship was created in memory of Regan Robinson, a medical student at USA who was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 2003 at the age of 23. She used her own experience to help others cope with illness. In 2007, just months before her graduation from medical school, Regan passed away. Her empathetic spirit and drive to continue medical school while completing chemotherapy made her an inspiration to fellow students, faculty and staff. The scholarship provides assistance to a rising senior medical student who embodies Regan’s spirit and character.

Caudill said she is touched that Regan Robinson is not forgotten and that the scholarship was established to remember Robinson as more than just a medical student associated with a disease. She was a person who went out of her way to help others.

Caudill said she is honored to receive an award that recognizes Robinson’s personal qualities in others. “It is one thing to be recognized for achievements,” Caudill said, “but another to be recognized for qualities such as caring and compassion. Patients don’t build relationships with accomplishments. They build them with a person.”

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