On Sunday at FedExField, retired Navy Petty Officer Third Class D’Onior Felton, a medical student at George Washington University, was honored as the 2011 NFL-Tillman Military Scholar.
Felton was named the winner this year, thanks to her passion for medicine and her attention to service, following her Navy career as a surgical technologist.
“What I think is actually cooler than just the scholarship, is the community of veterans that are there to support each other,” Felton explained. “A big part of that is the community work that we do, particularly in this area.”
One of Felton’s projects since she retired from the military and enrolled in this area, is to help revitalize the Oliver region of Baltimore. Whether that means fixing up homes, painting murals in the parks, or simply picking weeds and trash, it’s all done as a community of veterans.
Another program that Felton is involved with in the district, is her work with the George Washington “DC Health & Academic Prep Program,” for which she is a mentor.
“My particular program, we mentored 17 different students from DC public and charter schools who said they were interested in health careers,” she said. “Most of them were the first in their families to actually go to college, and we introduced them to basic health science information and tried to assist with their transitions into college.”
She said that each of her six students went to school far away from Washington, and she had to keep track of each of them over phone and email during their freshman years. But, as most baby birds spread their wings, it’s her job to try and track them down during their sophomore years.
“I talk to them mostly now, when they call me back,” she said with a laugh. “There were a lot of bumps in the road. Many of them were not ready for college academically–some of them socially, but that’s just what I’m there for, to help them use the resources available to them.”
The NFL-Tillman scholarship is part of the Tillman Military Scholars program established by the Pat Tillman Foundation to support educational opportunities for veterans and active service members and their spouses by filling the financial gaps in the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The Tillman Military Scholars program covers direct study-related expenses such as tuition and books, as well as other basic needs such as housing and childcare.
“D’Onior’s military experience and training opened her eyes to a career she had never really considered,” said Marie Tillman, President and Co-Founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “As a doctor, she wants to provide health care to underserved communities in the southern U.S. and through her career in public health, carry on Pat’s legacy of leadership and service. It’s an honor to recognize her as this year’s NFL-Tillman Military Scholar.”
Felton plans to enter pediatric or emergency medicine for her residency, with a focus on infectious disease. Her aim is to eventually practice medicine in a medically underserved community of the U.S. while also working with a community health care center near to her home state of Mississippi.