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A medical student has been named the second Gates Cambridge Scholar from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Casey Allison Rimland, daughter of Randy and Melodee Rimland of Charlotte, is a medical and doctoral student in the UNC School of Medicine. She is part of both the National Institutes of Health Cambridge Scholars Program and the UNC Medical Scientist Training Program.

Rimland plans to pursue a doctorate in the department of surgery at Cambridge. Her doctoral research will focus on developing stem cell therapies for liver fibrosis. She ultimately plans to work at an academic hospital as a physician scientist. The NIH Cambridge Scholars program will pay for her medical school tuition and her fourth year of doctoral work while the Gates Cambridge award will fund her doctoral work for three years, with full tuition and fees at Cambridge University and living expenses for those three years.

A 2007 graduate of Independence High School in Charlotte, Rimland earned her bachelor’s degree in 2011 from UNC-Charlotte, with majors in biology and psychology and a minor in chemistry. She is one of 40 U.S. winners this year selected from 800 applicants.

“Casey is the ideal Gates Cambridge Scholar,” said Linda Dykstra, William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of psychology and former director of UNC’s Office of Distinguished Scholarships. “She has excelled in so many areas: as an academic, as a student/clinician and, in keeping with the mission of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, in service to her community.”

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a merit award covering all expenses for one to three years of graduate studies at the University of Cambridge in England, was created with a $210 million donation to Cambridge from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Seattle-based foundation created by the founder of Microsoft and his wife operates in developing countries and the United States, working domestically to ensure that all people – especially those with the fewest resources – have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.

Since 2001, between 80 and 100 Gates Cambridge Scholarships have been given annually to college students worldwide for intellectual ability, leadership and desire to perform community service. Rimland’s scholarship is valued at about $57,147 per year for tuition and fees plus $22,538 per year for living expenses for three years.

During her first year of medical school, Rimland was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She said that her diagnosis has further strengthened her desire to pursue a career as a physician scientist. “Fighting cancer is a terrifying and humbling experience. Now that I am in remission, I can look back on the experience and realize how much it taught me,” Rimland said. “Due to my diagnosis, I am more committed than ever to patient care and translational research. The chance to directly help my patients cope with disease while also contributing to therapeutic development has never seemed so important.”

As an undergraduate, Rimland spent a summer in Brazil conducting research and performed research in the disciplines of biology, psychology, and chemistry. She said these experiences taught her what a research career demands and to value interdisciplinary and international collaboration. At UNC, she volunteers at the student-run Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) and Bloomer Hill Rural Health clinics to improve her clinical skills and provide care to uninsured patients.

Published February 27, 2014