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School of Medicine Columbia

Clorissa Washington Hughes

From Small Town Rural South Carolina to a Fellowship at Johns Hopkins

By: Clorissa Washington Hughes

My unique upbringing as an African-American female in Mullins, South Carolina has afforded me many opportunities and challenges. At the age of four, my parents divorced and I was raised partly by my religious relatives and my struggling mother. Furthermore, during my time in high school, my father was brutally murdered.

Mullins is a small rural town near the Interstate 95 corridor in the eastern part of the state. At one time, it was the center of the tobacco farming industry. It has a population of less than 5000 that is steadily decreasing and almost two thirds are African American. The median family income is well below that of the state as a whole and almost a third of families live below the poverty line.

My life completely changed when I enrolled as a freshman at Benedict College in Columbia. I excelled in all of my classes and was able to conduct undergraduate research at Benedict College, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of California – San Francisco. However, despite my research experience, I felt that I was not yet ready to enter graduate school.

My acceptance into the University of South Carolina Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) provided me with invaluable mentorship, academic and professional development. I recently received my Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Chemistry Department at the University of South Carolina. All of this resulted in my acceptance of a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine conducting brain physiology and disease research.

I never considered myself to be the smartest person in the room, but I always tried my absolute best to work hard and dream big. Even if I have to stay up all night, I will. Even if I have to work three times as hard, I will. Without the PREP program, I would not have had the opportunity to start graduate school or co-chair a research conference, or publish two first-author publications, or attend five conferences at the graduate level.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.