Life experiences, passions shape 2020 Brody Scholars

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

Michael Burt, Miranda Freeman and Heerali Patel – all North Carolina residents – have been chosen for the Class of 2024 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, 146 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.

Michael Burt.

Miranda Freeman.

Heerali Patel.

Michael Burt

Michael Burt graduated Summa cum laude from North Carolina State University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

While pursuing his undergraduate degree, he was an active member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society.

Burt, the son of Raymond Burt and the late Amy Burt, hails from Wilmington and graduated from Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington.

After college, he worked as an English teacher in rural South Korea, an AmeriCorps member with the Palmetto Conservation Foundation in South Carolina and a psychiatric nurse aide in Raleigh before deciding to return to school for a more defined career path.

“Medicine has always been intellectually interesting and offers me the opportunity to take a hands-on role in improving people’s lives,” Burt said. “It seemed like the best fit for me, so I just went for it and it’s been great so far.”

Burt said he’s currently interested in pursuing psychiatry, family medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation, but is keeping his options open.

“It will be fun to learn about and explore more specialties during my medical school years,” he said. “I hope to succeed in my coursework, make new friends and get involved in meaningful community work and research.”

Burt said he’s thankful for the scholarship and its impact on his future.

“Being a Brody Scholar is an incredible privilege, and I feel very fortunate that the Brody Foundation has chosen to invest in my medical education,” he said. “This award allows me to graduate without a large debt burden and frees me up to pursue opportunities that otherwise may not have been available to me.

“I am grateful to have received this honor, and I plan on working hard and paying it forward by serving North Carolina communities as a physician.”

Miranda Freeman

Miranda Freeman graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. She graduated from North Carolina State University in 2019 with a master’s degree in physiology.

During her undergraduate education, she served as president of the Alpha Chapter of the Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, the oldest Native American Greek letter organization. She was also powwow co-chair for the Carolina Indian Circle, a Native American-focused group.

The Eagle Springs native is the daughter of Tim and Cindy Freeman. She graduated from North Moore High School and is a first-generation college and medical student.

Freeman said it was during her undergraduate education that she reached the decision to pursue medicine.

“I realized during my time at UNC-Chapel Hill that it was imperative for Native communities to have Native physicians they could come to and rely upon,” she said. “It is important to me that there is an advocate for Native peoples and their health within the medical system who can also provide treatment and care.”

Freeman has a specific goal in focus during medical school.

“I hope to learn how to effectively work for underrepresented populations and how to best advocate for their specific and unique needs that differ from the majority populations,” she said. “I’m especially passionate about how we as medical professionals and physicians can provide better care for marginalized groups,” she added.

Freeman said the Brody Scholars Program gave her the opportunity to attend medical school.

“As a minority, a first-generation college student and a first-generation medical student, the path to becoming a physician has been completely uncharted territory.”

Heerali Patel

Patel is a Winston-Salem native who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minor degrees in chemistry and neuroscience.

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Patel worked as a tutor for the UNC Learning Center and served as a member, co-publicity chair and co-president of the NC-HCAP Health Careers Club, a health disparities organization that helps students become applicants for health profession programs.

Patel, the daughter of Sandip Patel and Kirti Patel, graduated from Mount Tabor High School.

When her mother, at age 40, battled stage three colorectal cancer, Patel’s interest in medicine was ignited.

“The patient-physician relationships built with my mother strongly resonated with me and showed me how compassion and empathy can truly benefit patient outcomes, even in the darkest of times,” she said. “I knew I wanted to become a physician in order to not only support my patients through their worst times, but also commit to helping them improve their lives so that they can pursue their passions.”

Patel said the areas of pediatrics and family medicine appeal to her most right now, but she’s also very passionate about molecular biology and genetics due to their widespread relevance in all fields of medicine.

“I would like to be a supportive and competent figure for my patients, continue giving back to the community, and either teach or mentor future physicians,” she said.

Patel said her life has been changed by the Brody family and their incredible support of the Brody Scholar award.

“Being a Brody Scholar allows me to pursue my passions and focus on my studies without worrying about student debt,” she said. “This honor enables me to focus on developing critical skills to provide my future patients with detail-oriented and compassionate care.”