November 29, 2023

Johnson receives MASA Underwood Minority Scholarship Award

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DesalynJohnson finleyDesalyn Johnson, fourth year Heersink student, has received the Jefferson Underwood Minority Scholarship Award. The Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA) presented Johnson with her award at their Oct. 19 meeting in Montgomery.

"Receiving the MASA Underwood Minority Scholarship Award is truly a humbling experience,” Johnson says. “I purpose to follow Dr. Underwood's legacy of humility, community engagement, and advocacy to ensure the health of my patients and their families. My interests are varied and include global health, medical education, and research as it pertains to health disparities. This award lifts financial strains so that I may further engulf myself into these interests and the art of medicine. Following Dr. Underwood's example, I will continue to eagerly seek after this education and training in honor of those who have come before me, and for the hope of those who will come after."

The Underwood Minority Scholarship Award is named after the Medical Association’s 152nd president, Jefferson Underwood III, M.D., who served as the association's first African American male president from 2018 to 2019. The scholarship supports African American students attending medical or osteopathic school.

Desalyn Johnson being presented with a $4,000 scholarship checkJohnson was awarded the Sara Crews Finley, M.D. Endowed Leadership Scholarship in 2021. Sara J. Finley, Finley family representative and daughter of Sara Crews Finley, M.D., reflects on Johnson’s continued success: “I extend my heartiest congratulations to Desalyn for receiving this important recognition. I first met Desalyn as a finalist for the Sara C. Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholarship, and it was readily apparent that she possesses the extraordinary talent and character to be a leader in the medical field and beyond. We were proud to select her as our award recipient, and it is gratifying to see MASA also honor her with the Underwood scholarship.”

Johnson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Alabama in Huntsville with a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Spanish Language and is pursuing her M.D. with a focus in pediatrics.

She received an NIH-funded National Research Service Award to investigate the effect of insurance status on infant mortality and morbidity rates in the United States, was nominated for the Southern Society for Pediatric Research Young Investigators Award, and received the Award to Enhance Diversity in the Research Workforce.

Her previous research articles considered the cytotoxic effects of essential oils on MCF-7 breast cancer cells and methods to improve international genetics education.

Johnson has showcased strong leadership over the course of her time at Heersink. In April of 2023, she served on a UAB global health trip to the Dominican Republic where her servant-leader attitude and untiring work ethic proved to be an incredible asset to the team. Her minor in Spanish Language and preparation prior to the trip allowed her to function independently and help others with translation. She also recently served as the report lead for the medical school as UAB prepared the Independent Student Analysis, an important LCME site visit. She also served as a medical student peer tutor, diversity ambassador, and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) mentor.

Johnson was raised in a military family and calls Huntsville home. Her interests include fitness, reading novels, and spending time with family.