From former heart patient to future pharmacist: Scholarships help MUSC student pursue dream pharmacy career

Melissa Varner
June 13, 2024
Renee Mayo in a white coat and smiling.

While most of her classmates at Blythewood High School were applying to college, Renee Mayo was applying to graduate school at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

“I was accepted into the MUSC College of Pharmacy Early Assurance Program when I was a senior in high school,” Renee said. “Here I am four years later, which is crazy.”

The program is designed for exceptional high school seniors who want to accelerate their education, reduce debt and jumpstart their pharmacy career. The program guarantees students like Renee acceptance to the college once they complete the required pre-pharmacy college courses, like chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and statistics.

She took classes at the College of Charleston, which she says gave her a taste of the “traditional” college experience. After two years, she had the credits to transfer to the College of Pharmacy to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy.

“I did not receive a bachelor's degree,” Renee said. “So, as of right now my highest level of education is a high school diploma.”

Renee has dreamed of working in health care since she was a young girl. As a child, she was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), causing her heart to race to more than 200 beats per minute. When she was 10, she had surgery at MUSC to restore her heart to a regular rhythm.

“I remember I was so scared, but the whole team made me feel so welcome and safe,” she said. “From that experience, I knew I wanted to pursue health care.”

And she knew she wanted to do it at MUSC. As a nonprofit academic health system, MUSC serves all regions of South Carolina through its 16 hospitals, 350 telehealth sites, 750 care locations and six colleges.

“This was the only place I applied,” she said. “I am very happy with my decision. I couldn't see myself being anywhere else.”

The Early Assurance Program saved Renee from paying for two additional years of undergraduate education. But like 90% of College of Pharmacy students, she still needs help paying for pharmacy school.

“The less stressed I am about money, the more I can focus on my school and my work and my patients and really, my whole education.”

Renee says she’s had to take out a student loan for each year of pharmacy school so far. By the time she graduates in May 2025, she estimates she’ll owe $100,000 or more.

Each scholarship she earns helps relieve that burden. “The less stressed I am about money, the more I can focus on my school and my work and my patients and really, my whole education,” she said.

In addition to the Dean’s Scholarship, Renee has received the Low Country Diagnostics Endowed Scholarship, established in 2001 by Mary Stewart Murphey, a 1982 graduate of the college.

Renee hopes to meet Murphey one day, so she can thank her in person. “It’s a huge honor to receive a scholarship,” Renee said. “To me, it means that someone believes in my education and developing my skills. Thank you for believing in me.”