People of the U: Reagan Moak
Published on Monday, March 13, 2023
By: Gary Pettus, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos By: Jay Ferchaud/UMMC Photography
This medical student walks into a hospital room and the patient says: “‘I have a question: Can you help me get married?’”
This is not a joke. It’s part of the true story of Reagan Moak, 24, a third-year medical student whose response to the question, as you will see, sums up what kind of physician she will be.
“Reagan has all the intellectual capacity to be an amazing doctor, but it’s her heart that stands out,” said Dr. David Norris, professor of family medicine and assistant dean of academic affairs in the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“People are going to feel better just by being around her. I know I do.”
Being able to make people feel better is the attraction of medicine for many, and it was no less so for young Reagan when she was growing up in Brandon, the oldest of five children, the one called “the magical child.”
“She has always had this confidence and energy and passion for everything,” said her mom, Jodi Brewer, a critical care paramedic with the UMMC AirCare flight team.
“And I don’t remember her ever wanting to be anything other than a doctor.” And that was the way it was going to be, as illustrated by The Red Boots Episode.
“When she was about 4, Reagan had these red cowboy boots and absolutely refused to wear any other shoes,” Brewer said. Obviously, if Reagan wanted to wear a white coat one day, she was going to do that, too, with or without boots.
“That’s who she is,” Brewer said: ‘This is what I want and no one can deter me.’” But it’s also this, she said: “Reagan has this servant’s heart – for everyone, really. And that’s something she’s had since she was a little girl.”
Moak certainly followed her heart as a student at Mississippi State University, where she majored in biochemistry, officially. Unofficially, she majored in scholarship and poise: At Homecoming 2019, she was crowned Miss MSU.
“A good memory – right before COVID,” Moak said.
Qualifying for the Miss MSU title also requires a record of service; in that, Moak did not disappoint. For instance, she and dozens of her classmates served the Starkville area by activating “volcanoes” and blowing up balloons.
Those activities were wrapped inside science experiments that enthralled school-age children and perhaps helped recruit some to the nation’s future STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) corps. It was the work of STEMpact: Moak’s creation.
In Starkville, she also left her mark as a student leader in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences while serving as recruitment chair for the American Medical Student Association and as a Community Health Intern.
Her creative currents erupted again after she entered medical school; she started the Wellness Initiative Program, an avenue for supporting medical students in every health-related category you can name – physical, mental, emotional, financial.
“Students really appreciate the variety of topics covered in the program’s sessions with faculty,” said Tressie Nichols, project manager in the medical school’s Office of Student Affairs where Moak worked as an intern after her M1 year.
“The work of the wellness program shows how much Reagan genuinely cares about people. She wants to make sure everybody feels included. We hope she sticks around when she graduates.”
If she does, she may adhere to a residency in internal medicine at UMMC. “I’d be shocked if I change my mind,” Moak said.
“I used to have this almost naïve idea about what medicine is; as I matured, my view matured. I learned that, as a physician, you must address not only a patient’s health; if you don’t also address the whole person, I don’t believe you’re doing them justice.”
In that respect, internal medicine seems like “a perfect plan,” she said. “During my internal medicine rotation, I was always at a place where I was free to learn and free to grow. The relationships I’ve developed with patients – it’s really beautiful.”
Enter Marcus “Fireman” Rounsaville, whom Moak met on her first internal medicine rotation at another local hospital; she continued to see him later when he was admitted to UMMC for a liver-kidney transplant.
Because of Moak, if any patient’s whole personhood has been addressed, it was Rounsaville’s. He’s the one who asked her “‘can you help me get married?’
“I think she may have been more excited about the wedding than I was,” said Rounsaville, 44, a firefighter, security guard and military veteran. “It was like she was getting married herself.”
Moak was “pumped,” she said. “I told Mr. Rounsaville if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right.”
Worried about his condition, months before he knew he would get a transplant, Rounsaville was determined not to lose any time. Taking up the gauntlet, Moak teamed up with internal medicine resident/fellow Dr. Christian Young and medical student Elizabeth Gilley to organize everything one day and witness Rounsaville saying “I do” the next.
The bride, Shani Jones, wore pink; the groom wore a hospital gown. Drifts of white rose petals dotted the bedsheets like giant snowflakes. Jones and Rounsaville each had a cake and a boutonniere. Grape juice flowed like wine.
Guided by a chaplain, the groom recited his vows while being perfused.
“Reagan never let me down and was always there,” said Rounsaville, who is recuperating from surgery at his sister’s home in Jackson. “I don’t know who sent her to that room, but I’m grateful to whoever did.
“Whenever she gets married, if she has her hand in planning it, it’s going to be a perfect day. Imagine what she could do if you gave her some time.”
The experience, Moak said, reinforced her vision of the doctor she hopes to be. “It’s something I’ll cherish forever. It was nice to see Mr. Rounsaville so happy.”