Young neighbor wins Purks scholarship to UMC

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 4, 2001

William Campbell is the recipient of the William K. Purks, M.D., Scholarship, a full award to the University Medical Center. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[06/04/01] William Campbell had no idea the work of a Vicksburg physician who lived three doors away would put him through medical school.

“It didn’t even register that it was the same guy,” said Campbell, 22, recipient of The William K. Purks, M.D., Scholarship, a full award to University Medical Center named for the late William K. “Bill” Purks, a longtime Vicksburg physician. “I just feel really lucky and blessed.”

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The Purks scholarship, established in 1990 by the Vicksburg Medical Foundation, is given each year to one student entering UMC’s medical school. The nearly $104,000 award covers tuition, fees and books for four years. In addition to the scholarship, Campbell will receive a monthly stipend. Last year’s was about $1,200 per month.

“I guess good things happen close to home,” said Campbell’s father, Frank Campbell, an attorney.

The Purks and Campbell families became neighbors in 1952, when Frank Campbell was 4 years old and he and his parents moved to 1330 Baum St. The Purks family had lived in their home at 1400 Baum for 12 years at that time.

Frank Campbell, along with his wife, Carole Blackledge Campbell, and their young sons, moved into the family home in 1987, and Dr. Purks still lived doors away.

Dr. Purks was trustee and president of the Vicksburg Medical Foundation, a charitable organization established by several area physicians in 1956. He died two months ago at age 95, about a week after Campbell was notified of he’d won he scholarship named in honor of his neighbor.

Campbell had not known he was being considered for the scholarship.

“I had no idea until I checked the mail one day I just thought it was more forms to fill out,” Campbell said. “I thought, Man, what do they want now?'”

Campbell said he has always known he wanted to be a doctor. At Ole Miss, his major was biology.

Though he graduated just last month after four years in Oxford, Campbell said he is not dreading more time in the classroom.

“I think of it more like I’m getting to take what I want to take. This is just what I like to do,” he said.

“I do think he’s known in his heart and soul,” said Carole Campbell, who teaches French at Vicksburg High School.

“I told him, That’s such a hard way to make a living,'” she said. “But he said, Mom, it’s not about the money this is what God wants me to do.'”

Campbell said he’s not sure in which area of medicine he will specialize, but he enjoys pediatrics and surgery. For three summers, he has been a research assistant in the division of rheumatology and molecular immunology at UMC. He was supervised by Dr. John Jenkins, who has worked at the medical center for six years.

“He’s an outstanding guy,” Campbell said. “He was flexible enough to let me follow him around.”

Jenkins’ praise for his protege is abundant. “He’s probably one of the best young people going into medicine that I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “I wish there were more people like him.”

At Ole Miss, Campbell was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity. He also volunteered with Leap Frog, a children’s after-school program in Oxford. Coincidentally, he was co-valedictorian at Vicksburg High School in 1997, and his 18-year-old brother, Lane, is the school’s 2001 valedictorian. The mother said her youngest son, Matthew, 12, thinks he has a family legacy to fulfill.

Two other students from Warren County have received the Purks scholarship. Melvin Seid was the 1991 recipient, and Drew Pickett won it in 1992.

Bob Purks, Purks’ son and a trustee of the Vicksburg Medical Foundation, said he is glad another student from the area has gotten the award.

“My father knew William was applying to UMC,” said Purks, who lives in Falls Church, Va. “I’m sure he would be very pleased that he’s getting it.”