Brains over Barriers: Co-valedictorian Mikirra Bullard couldn’t be stopped by family drug abuse, poverty, and incarceration

"I just always had bigger dreams," the future physician says

May. 3, 2018

Mikirra Bullard has accepted one of the hardest of life’s professional challenges—to literally be responsible for the health of others. She is an aspiring obstetrician and gynecologist, and has worked as hard as possible to use her undergraduate experience to prepare her for a future as a physician. The Atlanta native graduates Saturday with the highest grade point average in her class, an honor she shares with mathematics major Michael Johnson. She has presented research at numerous scientific conferences and learned about the intersectionality of the sciences. She has interned for the United States Department of Defense and the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, and has participated in a broad range of diverse experiences on campus, from acting through the Joseph Adkins Players, to standing up for what’s right though the National Council of Negro Women, to advancing the interests of scientific scholarship through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, the Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Honor Society, and the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society. She is a rock-star achiever now, but her path to excellence has not been easy. She had plenty of practice overcoming obstacles as she was growing up.

“I grew up in a drug-addicted, single-parent household in an impoverished neighborhood in Atlanta, GA,” said Bullard. “At an early age, I had to learn to be responsible because my mother wasn’t always there to provide for my younger brother and me. A large majority of my childhood and teenage years were spent caring for my younger brother, so I didn’t really have an opportunity to be a kid. I always had dreams of something greater for myself, but I didn’t know how I would be able to accomplish those dreams. Once I reached high school and I was exposed to the different avenues I could take to help me accomplish my dreams, I became determined to make my dreams become a reality.”

Growing up, Bullard was at times of unsure of herself and what she wanted out of life. Enrolling in FVSU helped her focus on herself and helped her believe in herself and her abilities. “At FVSU, I’ve gotten a chance to learn who I am as a person,” she said. “And I’ve learned to love that person. Now I can look in the mirror and say, ‘I love her.’”

She had to become an adult before her time, learning how to make budgets and pay bills to keep the lights on. Family members have been repeatedly incarcerated. Yet, she is still grateful because she feels that the struggles she went through fueled the hunger in her responsible for her success.

“A lot of people that I grew up with didn’t make it,” she said. “I didn’t want to be that person. I just always had bigger dreams.”

Mikirra Ballurd Library

Bullard counts the faculty of Fort Valley State University among her biggest cheerleaders. From the beginning, she felt that the faculty would support her.

“I decided to attend FVSU because of my interactions with the faculty and staff,” Bullard said. “When I visited FVSU, the environment was extremely friendly and welcoming. The faculty were invested in my interests and made me feel right at home.”

The sciences are tough areas to major in, but Bullard wants other students to know that they can succeed if they work hard. She knows that she can inspire others by her accomplishments. She has some honest advice for new students entering the field.

“I would tell them to be disciplined because having a major in STEM is extremely difficult,” she explained. “It’s [important] that they stay on top of their studies so that they will be able to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves. I would also encourage them to have fun sometimes because classes can become taxing. It’s okay to take some time to yourself.”