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UVa-Wise graduate Belcher heads to medical school

Rachel Belcher is leaving The University of Virginia’s College at Wise with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, but the Pound resident plans to return to Southwest Virginia as a physician after completing medical school at the University of Virginia.

The honors graduate was tapped to deliver the student address for the 2011 Commencement.

Belcher, 22, has distinguished herself at UVa-Wise for her thorough research and dogged determination to use her education to help others.  She spent two months in Africa with the University of Virginia’s Center for Global Health, where she completed research on a project entitled “Water and Health in Limpopo.” Belcher is the first UVa-Wise student to travel with the Center for Global Health.

While in Africa, Belcher noted similarities between health issues there and in the Appalachia region of the United States. She returned home with a profound feeling of how privileged she is to call Southwest Virginia home.

“It opened my eyes to the health parallels there and in Appalachia,” she said. It showed me that you don’t have to go halfway around the world to help people. You can help in your own backyard.”

Belcher worked with the Healthy Appalachia Institute on a breast cancer research project, specifically on the ability of women in the Appalachia region to get treatment. It solidified her decision to return home to practice medicine.

“It is very important to me,” she said. “It is one of the reasons I want to be a doctor.”

The four years she spent at UVa-Wise prepared her for any challenges.

“I couldn’t say enough about my time here,” she said. “It has turned out to be phenomenal. All my professors know me and go above and beyond to help me.”

In her spare time, Belcher enjoys attending baseball games with her fiancé, Brent Mullins. They also spend time fishing and riding all-terrain vehicles. An avid reader, Belcher is the daughter of Liz and Gerald Belcher of Pound.