Rural upbringing inspires student’s path

Photo of Shmonica McCarroll

By Laura Gasque

Shmonica McCarroll remembers gasping for air during the long drive to the city hospital—the trip her family had to make because the rural care provider nearby was not equipped to handle her uncontrolled asthma.

"I recall as a scared 7-year-old waking my parents up in the middle of the night because I couldn't breathe,” McCarroll said. “My parents would wake up without hesitation, dress and drive an hour to the hospital. However, as a child suffering from an asthma attack, one hour felt like three. This would happen at least five times a year."

McCarroll grew up in Gainesville, Alabama, a town of about 200 people, in the state’s rural Black Belt region. The family also had to drive to Birmingham to get care for her father who was wheelchair dependent.

“We would often come to UAB for medical appointments, and I would be so intrigued by the big city and all the health care specialists. It was at that age I knew I wanted to be a nurse,” McCarroll said.

Nursing allowed McCarroll to pursue her passion of caring for others. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing in 2016 and decided to continue her education through the Doctor of Nursing Practice Pathway.

“I chose UAB because of the diversity. I wanted my alma mater to reflect the communities in which I intend to practice,” McCarroll said. “There’s a place for everyone at UAB and that is what I love about this university.”

McCarroll, a first-generation college student and the youngest of seven children, credits the generous donors who gave to scholarships that helped her with the financial support she needed. At one point during her studies, she was not sure if she could continue her education because of a lack of resources.

“The people who supported me through scholarships helped bring my mission to fruition,” McCarroll said. “I say mission because being a nurse practitioner is not just a job but a calling to serve others and walk alongside families through times of joy, confusion and pain. The donors’ generosity will help me give a voice to those who feel forgotten and marginalized.”

After graduation in December, McCarroll will begin a career as a doctorally prepared nurse practitioner and hopes to find a position in a community clinic. Her dream is to open community wellness centers in urban and rural under-resourced communities and to offer comprehensive medical care and workout facilities for free or at a reduced cost. She believes that income shouldn’t determine whether someone is healthy. She wants to help others while making her hometown proud.

“Growing up in a tight-knit community taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, and giving to those in need,” McCarroll said. “These values have shaped who I am today and continue to guide me personally and professionally.”

Upcoming Events