Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars program. The ARH Scholars are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare. Their stories are unique, but a common thread unites every winner: a desire to make a difference to the people of Appalachia through healthcare. The Fall 2019 class of ARH Scholars included ten talented future healthcare providers, like Cole Parker Williams.
Cole is a senior at Knott County Central High School. His main focus is his studies, which is why he’s maintained great grades and attended AP classes, in addition to being part of the archery, tennis, and golf teams. Throughout his schooling this far, Cole says his mother has been his biggest mentor and inspiration. As a librarian at Knott County Central, she’s always encouraged him at school. “My mom really pushed me in my education. She’s helped me see the value of getting good grades, she’s helped make sure that I’m in good, positive friend groups, and helped ensure that I have fun at school.”
Cole’s mom is also the one who suggested that he research the ARH Scholars program scholarship, which he was ecstatic to receive. “I really didn’t think I’d get it, but now I can be debt-free for the first year of college. That’s a big help, because I can focus on being the best student that I can be without the stress of my financial situation. College is very expensive, so trying to minimize the amount of student loans that I have to take out is really important to me.”
Of all the classes he takes at school, Cole’s favorite subject by far is science. “I’ve always really liked science,” Cole says. “I like the idea of science in general, and I’ve always enjoyed learning about it. I’m fascinated by the complexity of science, and how small and specific the pieces are, and how science provides an explanation for almost everything.”
His fascination with science is what initially drew Cole to the medical field. For his anatomy classes at Knott County Central, he shadowed pharmacists and physicians at his local hospital, and began thinking more and more about pursuing a career in medicine. That’s why in the fall he’ll be attending Morehead State University to pursue a biology pre-medicine degree. At Morehead, Cole is looking forward to taking more challenging and specialized science courses (and visiting the lake in his free time.)
While he’ll likely graduate from Morehead in 2024, Cole is already looking ahead. “My ultimate goal is to attend medical school to become a laparoscopic surgeon.” Cole says laparoscopic surgeries are particularly interesting to him because they are low-risk and minimally invasive. “I’ve always been interested in surgery, but laparoscopic surgeries use smaller incisions, take less time than open surgeries, and patients get back to normal faster.”
This ties in with Cole’s ultimate goal of returning to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to serve his community. He says in 10-15 years, after medical school, internship, and residency, he’d like to work in a local hospital close to home. “I don’t want to go too far; my friends and family are here, and I know the area quite well.” Cole hopes to serve the members of the community where he was raised. “I just hope that I can help people with what I do. I want to help people get through their days easier and generally make life easier to manage for my patients.”