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franklin county times

Distinguished Through the Decades: 2010, Emma McDowell

Progress 2022: Distinguished Through the Decades

As the “last Junior Miss” for Franklin County – before the program rebranded as Distinguished Young Women – Russellville High School’s Dr. Emma McDowell remembers her experience as a great one.

McDowell said she “was involved in everything in high school.” She was the majorette captain and played French horn in the concert band and trumpet in the jazz band. She was the show choir president, class president, year book editor-in-chief – roles she loved but “I definitely felt the burnout by the time I got to college.”

McDowell earned her Bachelor of Science in psychology with a minor in liberal arts at The University of Alabama, where she took part in Phi Mu, and she earned her doctorate in osteopathic medicine from VCOM-Auburn – a tribute to her “divided household” heritage. “My mom was a Crimsonette at Alabama, and my dad and his entire family and my older siblings went to Auburn,” McDowell said. “They always say we’re the product of a mixed marriage, when it comes to football stuff.”

She applied to VCOM particularly in honor of her paternal grandparents, who had passed away; they were huge Auburn fans, and her grandmother’s uncle even had a building on campus named after him – Duncan Hall.

Between her undergrad and VCOM years, McDowell also took some classes at the University of North Alabama to further prepare for applying to medical school. She then took the MCAT as well as the LSAT and GRE – exams to qualify for medical school, law school and other graduate programs – the latter two to make sure she had a back-up plan. She medical school was always her plan.

“I’ve always wanted to help the community, and I thought that was the best way to do it,” McDowell said. She was inspired by the medical practice of Dr. Keith Morrow in Hackleburg, who she job shadowed in the wake of the 2011 tornados – in a makeshift clinic in the back of an 18-wheeler.

“People were crying when they saw him because both his clinics were destroyed, and they thought he was in there,” McDowell said. “They thought he had died, so they were weeping, trying to see him … That’s exactly the kind of person I want to be for the community.”

In her third year of medical school McDowell began clinical rotations, getting her hours at Keller. “I lived at home. That was really nice.”

She graduated from VCOM in May 2020 and next began pursuing her master’s degree in population health science online from Alabama, becoming more fully educated on the policies and politics behind the American healthcare system. She next began her three-year residency program at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo in family medicine in summer 2021.

Following her residency McDowell said she hopes to one day work in existing medical clinic in the area, maybe in the Shoals. She said she also hopes to be involved with health policymaking at the state level. “I think doing this master’s program has really opened my eyes to all the flaws in the healthcare system,” she said.

In McDowell’s year for Junior Miss, she found herself in a unique scenario: she was the only participant in the local competition from Franklin County.

“I don’t know why people didn’t,” McDowell said. “The year before and the year after, there were several others.” While it took the pressure off – “I had a blast. I would help the other girls from Lauderdale and Colbert with their makeup and hair” – McDowell said she still gave the competition her best effort. “I still worked really hard on my talent and everything.”

McDowell said, surrounded by her fellow Junior Misses at state, she felt she was among her peers. “Several of the girls ended up going to Alabama, so I had a little group of friends,” McDowell said. “One ended up being in the same pledge class as me at Phi Mu.”

“I had a great time.”

McDowell is the daughter of Danny and Paula McDowell, local attorney and local district judge, respectively.