Ashley Haynes MS Top Scholar webAshley Haynes, 2015-16 MS Top ScholarAshley Haynes, a junior in the UAB School of Health Professions Biomedical Sciences Program, is one of only 10 students in the U.S. named a 2015 Top Scholar by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“We are delighted that Ashley, one of our own students has been chosen as a 2015 National MS Society Top Scholar,” said  Ted Bertrand, Ph.D. and  interim director, UAB Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences Program. “I think we all have something to learn from this emerging young leader about how to face adversity with grace and professionalism. We are proud of Ashley and her accomplishments.”

For the 2015-2016 academic year, the National MS Society awarded 595 new scholarships. Their Top Scholars are the highest scoring applicants based on academic performance, leadership and participation in school and community, outside recommendations, work experience, education and career aspirations. Scholars are also scored on a personal essay about the impact of MS in their lives.

“When you grow up with two immediate family members – my mother and grandmother – with MS and you physically witness what this disease can do, you develop a different perspective on life,” said Haynes, who is a member of the UAB School of Health ProfessionsHonor’s Program. “I remember growing up and seeing them fine one day, and then the next unable to move their legs – then the following week they would be walking again.”

READ MORE: see Haynes full Q&A here

Haynes says people with MS often look ‘normal’ unless they are struggling to walk or move around. Just by looking at someone you don’t know if they have double vision or if their extremities are tingling or their legs feel like they are dragging concrete around or their legs are stiff with painful muscle spasms. Haynes calls MS “a very invisible disease” and she is driven to make a difference in the lives of children with the disease.

“I think most of us know the sound advice of ‘when you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras’ but MS in the pediatric populations really is a zebra – a very complex one,” said Haynes. “Every child with MS deserves the right to know that despite overwhelming adversities, they can achieve their goals in life. They are not alone in their fight.”

For now, there are no FDA-approved drugs for children with MS. Haynes, who says there is great need for molecular research in pediatric MS and related demyelinating diseases, is interested in becoming a pediatric neurologist specializing in children. She believes being named a Top Scholar by the National MS Society is a positive step in attaining her goals.

“I am dedicating this award to my mom, grandmother and all adults with MS, but especially to all of the courageous children with MS and related demyelinating diseases – they truly are superheroes,” said Haynes. “I also want to thank my twin sister, family and friends, plus advisors and mentors who go above and beyond daily for me. This award is everything to me and it is humbling and an honor to represent the Alabama – Mississippi Chapter as a Top Scholar.”

Haynes is on track to graduate in spring 2016. She is carrying out her Honor’s Project, through her senior year, in pediatric MS under the mentorship of Chander Raman, Ph.D., Patrizia De Sarno, Ph.D., and Jayne Ness, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the UAB Center for Pediatric Onset Demyelinating Disease. The CPODD is one of only nine Pediatric MS Centers of Excellence in the United States. She works as a clinical and research student assistant with the CPODD at Children’s of Alabama.