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How rider-raised dollars support the next generation of researchers

|   August 31, 2023

It was never a question. Jessica Baxter was going to college. It was something her mother always pushed for her children.

“I come from a single-parent household and I’m the youngest of three, so college is a huge deal,” said Baxter. “I wasn’t opposed to going but, of course, with college, there is a financial aspect, and we are really dependent on scholarships and financial aid to cover most of the cost.”

Baxter was already doing a good job of securing the funds to get her education – and doing so on merit. As part of the Honors College at South Carolina State University (SCSU), she had some scholarship money helping with her tuition. 

young woman smiling for camera
Photo by Clif Rhodes

But in 2021, the biology major (with a minor in chemistry) got a boost when she was awarded a LOWVELO Scholarship.

“Getting the LOWVELO scholarship completely allowed me to not have to pay for school at all for the past couple of years, which has caused a huge financial relief on my family,” said Baxter.

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center’s LOWVELO is all about funding lifesaving cancer research. As South Carolina’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, the innovative research happening at Hollings impacts patients across the state and beyond. With 100% of every participant-raised dollar benefiting cancer research, LOWVELO’s riders and donors directly support the Hollings researchers who are advancing cancer care. It also funds fellowships and scholarships to help train the next generation of researchers – researchers like Baxter.

Photo provided

In 2022, Baxter applied for and was invited to be part of the South Carolina Cancer Health Equity Consortium (SC CHEC) at Hollings. This is a 10-week summer program that aims to attract and catalyze a new generation of diverse biomedical scientists. The program exposes student fellows to current health statistics, disparity gaps in health outcomes, key leaders in biomedical/biobehavioral research, and provides hands-on experience in laboratories that are working to understand the science behind the cancer disease.

In the program, undergraduate juniors and seniors engage with investigators at Hollings to gain exposure to the latest advances in biomedical research spanning basic, clinical and population sciences with an emphasis on cancer disparities in South Carolina.

During her internship, Baxter spent her first summer studying prostate cancer on campus at SCSU and her second summer at Hollings studying a link between sickle 

cell disease and cancer. It’s opened her eyes to the world of research. Although, Baxter hopes to continue her education by becoming a physical therapist, she now sees that research can help in so many areas of medicine and plans to make it part of her career as well. Baxter said her LOWVELO scholarship has been a key in her college journey.

“It’s already opened so many doors of opportunity,” said Baxter. “Of course, it’s helped financially, but it’s also helped me build connections with people who are invested in students who are upcoming and who could potentially be the next researchers. It’s taught me just how amazing research is and how many different ways there are to do it.  It makes me excited for what I’m going to do and how far my career could go.”

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