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Scholarship made career possible for College of Nursing alumna

By Allyson Bird
Office of Development and Alumni Affairs

April Dove graduated from Clemson University with a double major in biology and psychology and plans to follow the path of her parents, a physician’s assistant and a nurse. But first, she wanted to work a few odd jobs.

“If you’ve never worked a retail job making $6.95 an hour, you don’t understand where those patients are coming from,” April said. “I’ve worked in retail. I’ve worked in fast-food restaurants. I understand high cholesterol and bad eating habits, living penny to penny. I understand that.”

April Dove, second from right, and another MUSC student teach students about portion control in the Junior Doctors of Health program at Meeting Street Academy.

She also worked one-on-one with three children through the Carolina Autism Project and finally wound up at MUSC as a patient care technician in neurosurgery. April cared for one woman during the patient’s final four months, and that experience defined April’s own life.  

“I realized this is where I need to be,” April said. She wanted to become a nurse. 

April felt mentally prepared for MUSC’s intensive 16-month nursing program but, financially, she lacked what she needed to get started. The nurses on her floor told her to talk to Mardi Long, Director of Student and Alumni Relations at the College of Nursing.

“I told Mardi, ‘I want to go to nursing school, but I don’t have the money to go,’” April said. “She said, ‘You’d be perfect.’ She got me a scholarship, and that was the end of that.”

Long called April “a great ambassador for nursing,” whose community service and leadership made her the perfect scholarship candidate. April received financial aid from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation, a Georgia-based nonprofit corporation that provides scholarships to select female students in the Southeast. The scholarship helped about 10,000 students last year alone, including 43 MUSC nursing students, according to Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation grants program director Elizabeth Smith.

“Because it is need-based, what we want to do is provide students with an opportunity,” Smith said. “We want to help alleviate some of their needs.”

April graduated from the College of Nursing on May 17 with several job offers. “If I didn’t get the scholarship,” she said, “I don’t think I would have finished nursing school.”

While an MUSC student, April served as president of the Multicultural Student Nurses Association, which connects nursing students with people in communities that need their care. She most enjoyed clinical work, from labor and delivery at Trident Medical Center to nutrition programs at local schools to HIV awareness campaigns at gay clubs.

April Dove prepares for her commencement ceremony on May 17, 2013.

“I had two goals in life: To work at MUSC and to go to school at MUSC,” she said.

Some of April’s earliest memories take her back to campus when, as a toddler, she tagged along with her father for his physician’s assistant classes. She felt even more compelled to pursue a medical career in college, after her mother developed septic shock following a surgery.

“The nurses saved my mom,” April said. “I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

April said she changed in just the year and four months she spent learning about nursing.

“I am not the same person I was when I started,” she said. “You learn how to be fast, flexible, dependable. Our motto at MUSC nursing school is, ‘Hit the ground running.’ And you do hit the ground running. You cry. You sweat. You bleed. You become humbled. But you hit the ground running.”