Caring for her community

Fourth-year medical student Brittany Pendergraft grew up in a town of fewer than 200 people. She knows firsthand the importance of having health care available in rural communities and is eager to provide that care in the future.

  • brittany pendergraft and her mom and grandma
    Brittany Pendergraft poses with her mom and grandma on the day of Pendergraft’s White Coat Ceremony.

May 9, 2022
Contact: Deidra Ashley, ashleyde@missouri.edu

Like many medical students, the road to “MD” was not a straight shot for senior Brittany Pendergraft.

After earning her undergraduate degree in biology in Arkansas, the Stella, Missouri, native applied to medical school. She didn’t get in on that first try but didn’t give up on her dream. With the support of her family, Pendergraft pointed her compass toward a master’s of science degree. “I had told my dad that no one from Stella could make it as a doctor,” Pendergraft said. “He just laughed and told me I was tough enough to do it.”

In 2018, with a new degree in hand, Pendergraft took her second shot at medical school and applied to Mizzou.

She got in.

“I was so excited,” she said. “Mizzou made a lot of sense for me — both financially and because of how close it was to home. I was going to get that medical degree yet!”

Finding her niche

Even though Pendergraft knew she wanted to be a doctor early in life, she said it wasn’t until she arrived at Mizzou that she found her calling: family medicine.

“I got involved in a few medical-related interest groups and met Dr. Kevin Craig,” Pendergraft said. “He was instrumental in helping me solidify the idea that I wanted to do family medicine, and he went above and beyond to help me get the medical school experience that I wanted.”

Craig said he was glad to help Pendergraft find her niche and he looks forward to what she’ll accomplish in the future.

“Brittany has been actively engaged since her first year of medical school,” Craig said. “She is an eager learner, and her interest in caring for older adults and those patients with serious illness will serve her well as she begins her career in family medicine. It will also help her to be an outstanding primary care physician.”

The next stop of the journey

During the coronavirus pandemic, Pendergraft had the opportunity to move back home and reconnect with her Stella community before heading to Springfield, Missouri, for clinicals.

In Springfield, at the medical school’s Springfield Clinical Campus, Pendergraft soaked up as much hands-on experience as she could — from helping deliver babies, to assisting on surgeries, diagnosing COVID-19, the flu and more. She also spent time in Angie Whitesell’s clinic in Lockwood, Missouri, an experience she said she’ll never forget.

“Being able to see what Dr. Whitesell’s clinic looked like and how it operated was incredible,” Pendergraft said. “It’s very similar to what I want my clinic to look like in the future.”

And that future is getting closer and closer.

After graduation, Pendergraft will be one of the first residents in MU’s Family Medicine Rural Track Residency program — a program that trains family medicine physicians to provide outstanding care and leadership for rural patients and their communities.

“This program is going to help me transition from resident to full practicing physician,” Pendergraft said. “And after it’s all said and done, I hope to move back to Stella — and my family — and practice there for the rest of my life. My education at Mizzou has set the foundation to make all of my dreams possible, especially with their dedication to providing more primary care physicians to Missouri and its rural areas.”

Meet more Spring 2022 graduates

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