Three N.C. natives awarded prestigious ECU scholarship

Three medical students at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine have been awarded the university’s most prestigious scholarship.

Amber Priester, Ross Masters and Helina Gan – who are all North Carolina natives – have been chosen for the Class of 2022 Brody Scholar award, valued at approximately $115,000.

Each student will receive four years of medical school tuition, living expenses and the opportunity to design his or her own summer enrichment program that can include travel abroad. The award will also support community service projects the students may undertake while in medical school. Since the program began in 1983, 140 students have received scholarships. About 75 percent of Brody Scholars remain in North Carolina to practice, and the majority of those stay in eastern North Carolina.


Amber Fulford Priester (Photo by Gretchen Baugh)

Amber Fulford Priester (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

Amber Fulford Priester

Priester is a first-generation college graduate from Supply, who recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with bachelor’s degrees in biology and anthropology and a minor in chemistry.

While pursuing her undergraduate degrees, Priester – the daughter of Adam and Crystal Fulford, also of Supply – volunteered in UNC Medical Center’s Pediatric Playroom and was the treasurer of Carolina Pediatric Attention Love and Support (CPALS), an organization that provides supportive relationships for pediatric patients and their families. She also took part in a host of other activities, including volunteering in a Brunswick County emergency department and serving as a research assistant in the UNC Division of Cardiology.

Priester graduated Phi Beta Kappa with highest distinction and was an Honors Carolina Laureate, as well as a graduate of the Buckley Public Service Scholars Program.

Attending medical school is something Priester said she’s wanted to do for as long as she can remember.

“Every encounter I have had, good or bad, has just reaffirmed my desire to go into medicine,” she said. “The older I have gotten, the more I have realized that medicine gives me the science that I love, while still allowing me to fulfill the face-to-face contact with other people and the life of service that I desire.”

Priester said she is leaning toward a career in pediatrics and is interested in learning more about how geographic location influences a person’s access to quality health care.

Upon becoming a physician, she plans to focus on serving eastern North Carolinians.

“Coming from southeastern North Carolina myself, I feel passionately about bridging the gap in health care across the state,” Priester said. “Being a Brody Scholar is a reminder of how much the state of North Carolina has invested in me over the years, and it strengthens my desire to give back to my home state in the best way that I can.”


Ross MacRae Masters (Photo by Gretchen Baugh)

Ross MacRae Masters

Ross MacRae Masters

Masters graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014 with a degree in political science.

The Lumberton native worked in Washington, D.C., for a year in sales before realizing that career path was not the right fit for him. After taking an EMT-Basic course back home in North Carolina, however, he determined that he wanted to devote his life to medicine.

“Shortly after finishing the course, I was driving home from a vacation when I witnessed a hit-and-run automobile accident. Knowing what to do and being useful on that scene immediately after the accident is, to date, one of the single most fulfilling moments of my life,” he said.

Masters – the son of John and Mary Ann Masters, also of Lumberton – said he was very thankful for his family for their encouragement during his difficult career change, which was not without its risks. He subsequently completed all of his medical school science prerequisites at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and said he hopes to become a well-rounded family physician.

“As a paramedic in Robeson County, a large portion of calls I answered had a single common denominator – poverty,” he said. “Seeing poverty’s impact first-hand turned my attention toward the social determinants of health. It also steered me toward family medicine, which I think is the field of medicine best equipped to address poverty-related health care issues.”

Masters said being named a Brody Scholar validates for him that the hard work he’s put in up to this point has been recognized

“Going forward, it’s a responsibility to take this generous gift from the Brody Foundation and make sure I turn it into something valuable for my future patients,” he said. “My number one interest is to make sure my future patients get the health care they need to live the most fulfilling lives possible.”


Helina Gan

Helina Gan

Gan is a Clemmons native who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology and a minor in chemistry.

While in college, Gan – the daughter of Xueling Hu and Huamin Gan, also of Clemmons – spent a majority of her time working with The Arc of the Triangle, which provides one-on-one support to children and adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. She also volunteered at a local community health clinic that offers free health services to individuals who are uninsured or underinsured.

Gan said she has been hooked on the idea of being a doctor since she was a child, but that her passion for medicine grew during her time in college.

“Through my time at UNC, I realized that practicing as a doctor would allow me to address prevalent health disparities in underserved communities at the individual level,” she said. “Medicine is my opportunity to have a career dedicated to service to others.”

While at Brody, Gan said she hopes to learn how to “effectively serve North Carolina communities facing health disparities due to lack of quality, consistent health care.”

“Whether it be innovative clinical solutions such as telemedicine or bigger picture approaches through health policy, I hope to come out of medical school prepared to tackle the problems of health care inaccessibility,” she said, adding she’s planning to pursue a career in primary care. “I plan to practice as a physician who is competent and prepared to meet the needs of underrepresented and underserved populations.”

Gan said being named a Brody Scholar is an “incredible and humbling experience.”

“This honor not only means that I can pursue primary care without the financial burden, but it also reinforces that medicine is my opportunity to commit to a lifetime of serving others and my community,” she said.