A 21-year-old senior at the United States Naval Academy who grew up in El Dorado Hills has received the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, making her one of only 32 nationwide selected for the honor.
Megan Musilli learned of her selection Saturday night, just hours after undergoing rigorous interviews for the award at the University of California, San Francisco. She’s set to graduate in May and plans to pursue postgraduate studies in medical anthropology at Oxford University beginning in the fall of 2016, and then attend medical school.
Musilli said she hopes to use her education to help reform the Navy’s medical system and better integrate military doctors into the civilian health care system so that they have a broader range of experience when they deploy.
“In the military in particular, there are a lot of very unique issues associated with combat and deployment,” she said. “I’m interested in how to make medical care in the Navy better.”
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Rhodes recipients are considered among the top scholars in the nation. Each year, a designated number of students undergo a strenuous application and interview process, and are chosen based on criteria set by British colonist Cecil Rhodes. Among U.S. recipients of the scholarship are former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Three Californians received the honor this year.
“Rhodes scholars are the people who have a vision of how to impact the future and make a difference in society across a number of fields,” said her mother, Brenda Musilli.
Megan Musilli was encouraged to apply by her professors and superiors at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., during her freshman year. She was one of only 18 scholars appointed by the university to be considered for the award.
Her mother said the Rhodes scholar aspired to join the Navy ever since she was 10 years old.
She recalled the Musilli family watching TV coverage of the 2004 tsunami that inundated communities around the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia when the image of a Naval medicine ship sailing in to provide aid flashed across the screen. She said her daughter turned to her and muttered, “Mom, I’m going to be a Navy doctor.”
“That really started the course to where she is now,” Brenda Musilli said.
Her daughter attended St. Francis Catholic High School in Sacramento, where she particularly excelled in math and science. Many nights when her peers were out at parties, she would be at home studying.
This past summer, she was selected as one of the few Naval Academy students to participate in training aboard a Navy medical ship headed to El Salvador and Panama. While on the medical mission, she shadowed doctors, assisted in the onboard operating room and helped civilians onshore.
She attributed much of her success to her family, teachers at St. Francis and the support she’s received through the Naval Academy.
“I owe so much to St. Francis and the entire city of Sacramento,” she said.