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Children’s, faculty, students shine

Published on Monday, September 26, 2022

Children’s of Mississippi named Starlight DEI Champion

Children’s of Mississippi is the recipient of the DEI Champion Award from the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

The award honors Children’s and the child life team for their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Over the past three years, Starlight’s work with Children’s of Mississippi has increased exponentially as they have partnered with the foundation to help their programs meet the needs of a diverse patient population.

Starlight’s colorful hospital gowns welcome patients to Imaging and surgical units where children undergo MRI and CT scans, fluoroscopy exams, and surgical procedures. Starlight also provides virtual reality programming, video game systems, and wagons designed for the hospital setting.

Children’s of Mississippi also receives accessible and inclusive toys through Starlight Deliveries, as well as wheelchair covers and accessories for imaginative play, empowering books, journals, and more.

Holding Children’s of Mississippi’s DEI Champion Award from the Starlight Foundation are child life team members, from left, Morgan Flournoy, Courtney Easterday, Cara Williams, Pepper Weed-Cooper, Tiffany Key, Ashley Prendez and Michelle Chambers.


Attar tapped for Women of Optometry Award of Excellence

Portrait of Dr. Roya Attar

Dr. Roya Attar, an assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and director of Optometric Services, is being recognized in Women of Optometry’s 2022 Theia Awards of Excellence.

Women of Optometry annually asks readers and friends to submit names of women who have been extraordinarily influential in the industry. More than 250 nominations were reviewed by the organization’s advisory board. Attar was cited as the Young OD of 2022.

In 2020, Dr. Attar was recognized by the American Optometric Association as Young Optometrist of the Year and by the Southern Council of Optometrists as Young Optometrist of the South, as well as having received multiple other recognitions. 

“Dr. Attar is an inspiration to all ODs, especially women, because in less than 10 years of graduation, she has demonstrated excellence in leadership roles in academia and continues to be a mentor for other doctors and students of optometry,” her Women of Optometry nomination read. “She is a great public speaker and has demonstrated so in her lectures and workshops in optometry meetings. Lastly, she has always been an advocate of community and public health services.”

The eight Theia Awards winners will be recognized Oct. 25 at the organization’s leadership conference in San Diego held in conjunction with the American Academy of Optometry.


Doctoral student chosen for research training, mentoring program

Douglas McLaurin

Douglas McLaurin, a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, has been selected to take part in the Robert L. Smith, M.D. Scholars Program, part of the Jackson Heart Study Graduate Training and Education Center (GTEC) at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

McLaurin is one of six students from three Mississippi universities who make up the fourth cohort of the program, which includes an intensive summer training institute.

Dr. Jennifer Reneker, assistant dean for scholarly innovation in the John D. Bower School of Population Health and associate professor in the Department of Population Health Science, is the principal investigator for UMMC-GTEC. “I deeply respect the work by the previous leadership team, and I am quite excited to begin working with this new group of excellent Cohort 4 scholars,” Reneker said.

McLaurin wants to contribute to the development of novel gene therapeutics and genetic screenings after graduation and plans to continue his training in genetics and RNA biology.

UMMC-GTEC, a two-year research training and mentoring program for doctoral and health professional students considering careers in cardiovascular health sciences, allows them to take part in the research process from idea generation to publication alongside mentors from leading research institutions.

The students, who interact regularly with senior researchers and mentors, commit to attending two consecutive summer training institutes, two mid-year meetings, quarterly webinars and other opportunities. Mentors guide students in writing peer-reviewed manuscripts, conducting analyses and making scientific presentations.

“This training and mentoring program is meant to complement the doctoral training each participant receives at their respective university,” said Reneker. “The hope is that we give them a competitive edge and enhanced skill set to move them forward into the next chapter in their professional life as researchers.”