Cody Stothers: From Prison Hospital Birth to Full M.D./Ph.D. Scholarship at Vanderbilt University

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Cody Stothers grew up not expecting gifts on Christmas or birthdays because, since his birth in a prison, his grandmother who made less than $10,000 a year in disability checks raised him.

Any gifts he did get were from charity, such as the "angel tree" program. This year, the Tennessean reported, he received a gift that makes up for all the ones he never got to open.

Now 22, Stothers recently found out he had been accepted to Vanderbilt University's M.D./Ph.D. program, a parallel major that will one day make him a physician and scientific researcher, on a full scholarship.

Stothers gift came as a result of his involvement in Aspirnaut, an outreach program for promising students with disadvantages who live in rural areas. Aspirnaut is for any student from kindergarten to graduating high school seniors and focuses in the fields of math, science, engineering and technology.

Born Dec. 23, Sothers was once a Christmas gift himself. His grandmother, Francis Taylor, a former nursing aid and sustained a debilitating injury on the job, took him home the next day, Christmas Eve wrapped in a stocking. She raised Stothers in the super-small town of Sheridan, Ark.

"She made it pretty obvious to me that if I wanted to have a life that was different than a lot of people in my family of poverty and just not really having a lot of resources that I was going to have to go to college and get an education," Stothers told the Tennesean.

Billy Hudson, a professor of biochemistry, and his wife Dr. Julie Hudson, a professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics, both work at Vanderbilt and started the Aspirnaut program in 2006. Billy was a high school dropout from an abusive home who wanted to start a program that helped young students in the way he once received help.

Stothers began at Aspirnaut helping younger students with computer skills, beginning his eventual journey to Vanderbilt. The program relies on community contributions and is currently present in eight states, but is also looking to expand.

Taylor told the Tennessean the moment she saw her grandson in the prison was the moment she knew she wanted to raise him.

"I wanted to take care of him," she said. "I still feel like I'm raising him today, but he's more raising me now."

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