Dozens of patients undergoing treatment for cancer received much-needed support for their battle thanks to an enterprising undergraduate student and her classmates at Mississippi College.
In December, Cecilia “CeCe” Sonia, a senior pre-physical therapy/kinesiology major from Clinton and co-chair of MC’s chapter of MedLife, organized a donation drive to benefit St. Dominic’s Comprehensive Cancer Services in Jackson.
According to Robby Channell, development officer for the St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, the students’ donations of about 300 items, including blankets, head scarves, lip balm, socks, and other necessities, were a comfort to patients undergoing treatment for cancer.
“During the holidays, I wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Sonia said. “It was fun collecting items with my friends.”
Sonia’s family served as inspiration for the drive. Several of her relatives have been diagnosed with cancer, and on two occasions, her mother had been hospitalized at St. Dominic for complications from kidney stones. Sonia took note of the exceptional care her mother had received.
When MedLife leaders sought an opportunity to accumulate volunteer hours for the chapter, she developed a plan.
“I wanted us to do something I am passionate about,” Sonia said. “I chose St. Dominic because the staff had been really nice to my mother.”
She contacted Volunteer Services at the hospital and discovered the need for personal items among its cancer patients. A donation drive fit with MedLife’s purpose perfectly.
MedLife is a special interest organization at the Christian University dedicated to serving local underserved communities through medicine, education, and community development.
“MedLife is a club for people interested in the medical field,” Sonia said. “It doesn’t have to be their major – they just have to be interested in it. We sponsor activities like suture labs and blood pressure labs to help teach students about the profession, and at the end of the semester, we help each other with our applications to professional schools.
“We have a volunteer department in our organization, and the drive was something I thought we could support.”
Sonia verified what items the St. Dominic patients needed, then posted flyers around campus inviting MC students, including those not involved in MedLife, to participate in the collection.
The response was greater than she anticipated.
“I was grateful that my schoolmates were willing to help others,” she said. “It made me feel great, especially during the holidays, because you never know what the next person may be going through.”
Sonia became interested in the health care profession during ninth grade when she shadowed a local pharmacist, but the college courses required to become a practitioner didn’t appeal to her. She then shadowed one of her cousin’s friends – Brittany Flaggs, D.P.T., a physical therapist at Healing Hands Rehabilitation Services in Madison – who sparked her passion for physical therapy.
Sonia volunteered in the physical therapy and occupational therapy departments at Children’s of Mississippi in Jackson, and “fell in love” working with the pediatric patients. She initially enrolled at Jackson State University, but transferred to Mississippi College because of MC’s outstanding reputation in the field of medical education.
“That was the best decision for me,” she said. “I am enjoying myself in class.”
Sonia plans to graduate from MC in December and hopes to earn her Doctor of Physical Therapy. If she is unable to go to physical therapy school immediately, she plans to serve as a physical therapy technician in a PT clinic until the next round of applications.
Being active in MedLife helps her stay involved in her chosen profession, and delivering the donation to St. Dominic was a highlight of her educational career.
“I got to meet many of the St. Dominic staff,” Sonia said. “They were very sweet. Because of the hospital’s pandemic policies, I couldn’t meet any of the patients, but the staff were welcoming and thanked me for the donation.”
St. Dominic’s Cancer Center is one of the top cancer treatment providers in central Mississippi. It is known for the compassionate care patients and families receive, and the innovative cancer treatment it provides.
Sonia said one of the best ways MC students can honor their community is by supporting local patients and health care practitioners.
“I love encouraging students to volunteer, help out their community, and be involved anytime they can,” she said.