KYCO students plan to fulfill passion for serving through health professions scholarship program

Three students from the Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) recently earned a full-ride scholarship through the Air Force Allied Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). James Morrison, Mitchel Taylor and Isabel Virgille were commissioned by Captain Logan Gentry, 30th CSSB Operations Officer, Tennessee Army National Guard, on August 28. 

The HPSP program is a service scholarship offered by the Air Force, Army and Navy to students who attend medical and dental schools. If accepted, tuition, fees, health insurance and other costs are covered, along with a monthly living stipend. Upon graduating, students pledge to work one year in the branch of service in which they were commissioned for each year they received the scholarship.

Earning the extensive scholarship is no small feat. The competitive process requires stellar academic performance, comprehensive background checks and multiple recommendation letters, in addition to the standard physical requirements military service demands.

The Interim Dean of KYCO, Donald J. Egan, FAAO, FNAP, is very proud that not one but three KYCO students have received HPSP scholarships this year. This selection acknowledges their outstanding accomplishments and will allow them to concentrate on their education and ultimately be the best they can be while serving their country.

Now, at the beginning of her third year of medical school at KYCO, Virgille discovered her love for medicine while working as a Registered Nurse providing compassionate care to a wide array of patients. She decided to attend optometry school, but like many aspiring medical students, the cost was a concern.

“While serving in the Air Force as an optometrist, I will be exposed to a unique and rewarding experience where I’ll be contributing directly to the well-being of our country’s armed forces,” said Virgille. “With advanced training opportunities, cutting-edge technology, and leadership roles, I knew that joining the United States Air Force was the perfect choice for me.”

According to Morrison, HPSP benefits the community by providing more military-trained doctors. 

“I am very fortunate to have been selected for the HPSP,” said Morrison. “The program lifts a heavy burden when it comes to student loan debt, but more importantly, allows me to continue to serve and provide eye health care to service members and their families.”

Taylor appreciates the opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps and serve the country he loves. 

“It is an honor to receive the HPSP scholarship and to follow in my father’s footsteps by being part of the Air Force,” said Taylor. “The scholarship has and will continue to open doors in my career as an optometrist. I am excited that I now have the opportunity to serve the country I love and serve the proud men and women who also serve.”