MSU pre-med advising office holds grand opening this week

Contact: Allison Matthews

The Dr. A. Randle and Marilyn W. White Pre-Med Advisory Office, a new academic service dedicated to advising Mississippi State pre-medical majors, formally opens Wednesday [Jan. 27] in Harned Hall. (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A new academic service dedicated to advising Mississippi State pre-medical majors formally opens Wednesday [Jan. 27].

At 10:30 a.m., the university’s College of Arts and Sciences will hold a public ribbon cutting for the Dr. A. Randle and Marilyn W. White Pre-Med Advisory Office.

Named for the Greenwood nephrologist and his wife whose support helped make it possible, the office is located in Room 116 of Harned Hall. A major campus building constructed in the early 1920s, Harned is longtime home of the college’s biological sciences department.

A native of the Oktoc community in Oktibbeha County and known to most as Randy, White is a 1966 MSU chemistry/pre-medicine alumnus who went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1969. The College of Arts and Sciences 2011 Alumni Fellow, he is a member of the college Dean’s Executive Advisory Board.

“This office will create more opportunities for students who are earning degrees with pre-health concentrations,” said Debra Mlsna, an MSU assistant professor of chemistry who is serving as co-director of the new office.

When making the gift, Dr. White said medical schools “want pre-med students to start from day one with community service. They want them to start from day one shadowing physicians; they want them to start with their extra-curricular activities that document their desire to be a physician.”

As an MSU student, White said he felt blessed to have advisers like Leslie Ellis, head of the then-biology department. He said Don Downer also provided the same level of guidance to daughter Rachael while she was on campus in the early 2000s as a pre-med major on her way to becoming a current UMMC physician.

While attending MSU, White worked part-time as a night “duty boy” in the Student Health Center, then located in George Hall. He also gives credit to Dr. John Longest, the center’s longtime director and namesake of the current campus health center, for proving a recommendation that enabled him to enter UMMC.

“I wanted to give back in a way that would be meaningful, and help the pre-med students, and I wanted to emphasize the pre-med advising,” White said. “I was lucky to have some people in my corner who put in a good word for me and used their influence to help me get into medical school. I want those who wish to become a physician to have guidance so they may be as lucky to become a physician and practice medicine as I have been.”

Mary Celeste Reese is the biological sciences department’s current undergraduate advising director and co-director of the pre-med advisory office. She works to help prepare pre-med and pre-dental majors for the Medical College Admission Test and Dental Admission Test.

Reese will be working with students in a variety of majors who desire to become health-care professionals.

Students from most any academic major may enter medical schools if they pass the MCAT and take the necessary prerequisites. Reese said this reality often poses a challenge since “students outside a typical science major typically may not have a pre-med/pre-dental adviser.”

Richard Hilton, administrator and CEO of the OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville, said the center’s board of directors voted in July to support the MSU office in two major ways.

Over five years, OCH will provide $5,000 a year for MCAT prep courses, Hilton said, adding that the cumulative $25,000 is designed to help pay for a course instructor, print materials and other supplies.

In addition, OCH is providing $10,000 a year over the same period to support scholarships for junior and senior pre-med students with financial need. All of the $50,000 total must be used to defray their costs in preparing for and taking the MCAT or applying to and visiting prospective medical schools.

“These opportunities allow us to invest in the next generation of doctors and health professionals,” Hilton said.

“The ultimate goal in this partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences is to both help these students achieve their goals and establish a relationship with these students so they will have a desire to one day move back to this area and give back to our community,” the veteran OCH leader explained.

For more information on the new campus office, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at