Scholarship cash the ticket for physician

Published 12:30 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

Myra Barginear was Miss Mississippi in 1997, and she says that’s what allowed her to be what she is today, an oncologist and an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

“If it would not have been for the Miss Mississippi organization, it would have been extremely difficult, financially,” said Barginear, who also is serving as a judge in this year’s Miss Mississippi pageant. “With that financial burden lessened, I felt a lot of pressure was taken off, and I was able to focus on my studies.”

Barginear, who said she competed mainly for the scholarship money, received more than $40,000 from the corporation and the Miss America Pageant, in which she was second runner-up to Miss America.

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This week, 45 young women are competing for about the same prize.

A grand total of $395,061 is on the table — $100,500 in cash and $294,561 in scholarships from universities.

The cash scholarships offered by the Miss Mississippi Corporation and other sponsors have held steady with last year at $112,000, but in-kind scholarships are down from $455,123 in 2009.

The decrease was the result of four schools not participating in the program.

If the cash scholarships were dispersed equally among the contestants, each would receive approximately $2,333, but this is a contest and the winner will get the most — $10,000 in a cash scholarship from the pageant corporation.

However, the 35 contestants who do not place in the top 10 will each receive $1,100, courtesy of the corporation.

The top 10 contestants each get more depending on rank.

The cost to participate in a pageant is not as great as in years past, said David Blackledge, chairman of the pageant corporation and executive director of the pageant.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money anymore,” he said during a Kiwanis meeting. “It’s not about the clothes, those days are long gone. Young ladies are getting clothes donated.”

He said contestants also sell salute pages in the pageant’s program book and each will receive a commission from sales.

In addition to scholarships, the winner also earns money through appearances as Miss Mississippi.

“Miss Mississippi can make around $300 per appearance and she makes at least 100 appearances,” said Mike Jones, Barginear’s business manager during her reign.

He said Miss America makes over six times more in appearance fees.

Another winner who is benefiting from her scholarship award is Miss Mississippi 2009 Anna Tadlock.

“In my affiliation as Miss Mississippi, I was able to go to graduate school debt-free,” said Tadlock, who will begin her graduate studies in English this fall at Mississippi College. “Because of a tuition waiver, I am able to go to school there for free.”

In addition to the waiver, Tadlock also received a $10,000 cash scholarship from the pageant corporation, fees for appearances and many more prizes.

This year, 12 universities and community colleges in the state are offering full or partial tuition waivers for the winner and alternates.

Barginear, whose specialty is breast cancer, received her bachelor’s in chemistry from the University of South Alabama and her medical degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania. On average, she said a physician incurs around $200,000 in student loans after completing medical school.

“I was able to circumvent a lot of that from the scholarships I received,” she said.