ECU alum, incoming Brody med student awarded $100k scholarship

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

ECU alumnus and incoming medical student Dakota Johnson is the recipient of a Fullerton Foundation scholarship that will cover his expenses at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
(May 14, 2014)  —  An incoming student at the Brody School of Medicine has earned a substantial scholarship that will help pay for medical school.

Dakota Johnson of Gastonia has been awarded $100,000 by the South Carolina-based Fullerton Foundation. The sum is expected to cover tuition, fees, books and other expenses while he attends medical school at East Carolina University.

His success is not an isolated case. Incoming Brody freshmen have earned the Fullerton scholarship eight of the last 10 years.

“Our missions are very similar when it comes to (providing) primary medicine in the rural areas,” said Charles J. Bonner, executive director of the foundation.

The scholarship is available to students enrolling in medical school in either North or South Carolina. Each school nominates one individual to compete for the award and three are selected.

“They’re not just looking for folks with 90th percentile test scores,” remarked Dr. James G. Peden Jr., associate dean of admissions at Brody. “They’re looking for people who will serve the community.”

Peden said Johnson’s undergraduate research experience, extensive community service and early exposure to the medical field contributed to Brody administrators selecting him as their candidate.

“We try to pick folks…who really have compassion and care. Someone who understands the human condition and will care about his patient.”

That description fits Johnson well, as a desire to help others is what drove him toward a career in health care.

“I can remember as a child being in the hospital when I was sick or had a broken bone and really admiring the doctors,” Johnson said. “I also remember being in and out of the hospital with my grandfather as he battled cancer. He played such a major role in raising me, and though he eventually lost his battle, it strengthened my resolve. I wanted to help people like those in his situation and comfort the ones that were in mine.”

Already an ECU alumnus, Johnson completed his undergraduate degree in biology in three years. He also minored in business administration. During that time he was a member of the Honors College and a recipient of the EC Scholar award – the most prestigious undergraduate academic scholarship offered by the university.

“Dakota is exceptionally conscientious and reliable,” remarked Katie O’Connor, director of EC Scholars and associate dean of the Honors College. “He is diligent and attentive to any task set before him. His compassion for people is unmatched. We are tremendously proud of him.”

Johnson was granted admittance to Brody through the Early Assurance Program in Medicine, which guarantees entrance to incoming undergraduates and waives the Medical College Admission Test requirement.

“ECU has believed in me and invested so much into me, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” he said. “The money is nice but it gives me so much more pride knowing that I made the university proud.”

“So many people have believed in me and been behind me from day one so this award was just as much for them as it was for me,” he continued. “In the end, it was all by the grace of God, and I have to thank Him first.”