Hartselle alumni excel in medical education
Four Hartselle alumni who participated in the medical academy during high school are continuing their medical education at the UAB Heersink School of Medicine.
Cooper Wright, Mel Ebeling, Josh Cunnins and Anna Wilson are in various years of medical school while a fifth student, Greyson Taylor, has recently been admitted and will start this fall.
Additionally, Hannah Dotson, Emeri Nosal and Gabby Stout are pursuing their educations at osteopathic medical schools.
Nosal and Dotson, members of the class of 2019, are in their first years at Virginia College of Medicine while Stout is in her second year at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine. Stout graduated from Hartselle in 2017.
The medical academy is the largest academy by enrollment numbers. Since its beginning in 2011, instructor Lynne Shelton estimates 1,000 students have been through the program.
“Mrs. Shelton, Mrs. Goins, Mrs. Langston, and Mr. Hardin do a phenomenal job of providing our students with many amazing opportunities in the healthcare field,” Principal Brad Cooper said. “They are constantly finding new ways to prepare our students for life after high school by providing hands-on experiences. To simply put it, our teachers are rockstars, and our students follow their guidance.”
Cooper Wright, a 2015 graduate of Hartselle High School, is in his fourth year at UAB studying Obstetrics and Gynecology. He will graduate this May.
Wright said his participation in the medical academy gave him a ‘leg up’ on his medical training before college as he was certified as an EKG technician during high school.
“I don’t have an extravagant story about deciding to go into healthcare,” he said. “It was a decision I made for myself even prior to the medical academy and it turned out to be the most important decision I ever made.”
A 2018 graduate of Hartselle, Josh Cunnins is in his second year at Heersink where he is specializing in interventional radiology. He said his years in the medical academy, along with his personal experience as a patient, reaffirmed his interest in medicine.
“I chose a career in healthcare because of my own experiences as a patient,” Cunnins said. “In 2014, I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis which is a fancy way of saying a specific spine fracture – and I worked with doctors and physical therapists through that process and even got back to playing soccer for HHS.”
In 2019, Cunnins was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor that required surgery to remove.
“That experience helped me to see that the true role of doctors is not just about making people feel better or give medicines, but about comforting patients and being the shepherd to people who are surrounded by chaos and don’t know what’s going on,” he added.
Mel Ebeling said the HHS Medical Academy was the foundation of every opportunity she has had since high school, including an internship and UAB’s early medical acceptance program.
“It also provided me with the opportunity to become an Emergency Medical Technician at no cost, which has allowed me to serve my community in the fire service and receive invaluable training across the country from the Dept. of Homeland Security,” she said.
“At the end of the day, the one thing that everyone in this world has in common—regardless of our differences in religion, culture, ethnicity and beliefs—is the reality of infirmity and death. From prescribing medications to prevent and cure diseases to performing emergency procedures that save lives, physicians are at the center of that commonality. I chose to become a physician because I want to impact the lives of others in such a way that they can have the health and opportunity to pursue happiness and fulfillment during this short period of time we call “life.”
Anna Wilson is currently studying neurology, but the first-year medical student said she is keeping an open mind for her focus will be in the future.
Wilson said the shadowing opportunities both in the medical academy and in college pointed her toward a career in healthcare.
“Getting to see what doctors actually do on a daily basis and envisioning myself being happy doing their job is what led me down the pre-med track,” Wilson said. “I was officially sold on choosing a career in healthcare after having the opportunity to volunteer for pediatric and hospice patients during college. I knew that serving and caring for others in this specific capacity is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Gabby Stout said her time in the medical academy was invaluable and it provided her with an honest and detailed look into the career she is now pursuing.
She plans on applying for residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Greyson Taylor will begin his studies at Heersink this fall, graduated from Hartselle and started his college career at the University of Alabama during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That experience helped solidify my commitment to becoming a doctor,” Taylor said. “I am in a pre-medical program at the University of Alabama that requires its members to stay on the same floor of a dorm together. Being quarantined with 30ish other pre-med students essentially forced me to make the decision to either get on their level with studying, volunteering and research or find a new major.”
Shelton said having this many former students simultaneously in medical school is an accomplishment for Hartselle High School and for the medical academy.
“I feel like this is pretty amazing considering how small our school is compared to the number of students actually admitted to medical school,” she said.
Only about 41% of applicants to medical schools in the U.S. who sought admission for the 2019-20 school year matriculated, according to statistics released by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Shelton said her hope is that some of her former students will one day return to Hartselle to practice medicine.
The healthcare landscape in Hartselle is expanding as Cullman Regional brought Hartselle Health Park to the city in 2021 and plans for a freestanding emergency department and ambulatory surgical center were recently approved by the State Health Planning & Development Review Board. The freestanding ER should be complete in 2024. The surgery center is expected to open in 2026.