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Celebrating the Impact of Scholarships

POSTED ON April 19, 2019

Stanley Goldfarb, MD, Board Member of the Benjamin and Mary Siddons Measey Foundation, addresses dinner attendees.

A trio of students from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University described the profound impact that receiving scholarships for their medical studies has had on their lives and thanked donors who have invested so generously in them and the future of medicine.

The annual Scholarship Celebration Dinner, held on March 20 at The Logan Philadelphia Hotel, was an opportunity to honor the donors, who have shown their deep commitment to the medical school by donating to the scholarship funds, as well as the exemplary medical students who received the financial help. About 223 guests had a chance to get to know one another over dinner.

First year medical student Gena Topper, who aspires to become a trauma surgeon, told the gathering she was “extremely humbled and honored” to receive a scholarship this year. “Attending medical school is an intellectual, physical and emotional challenge,” she said, “but it should not be such a financial one. Receiving this scholarship has eased my financial burden, and allowed me to be more flexible in what I can do this summer as I am less beholden to making money and more focused on pursuing research I am passionate about.”

In his opening remarks, Larry R. Kaiser, MD, the Lewis Katz Dean at the School of Medicine, set the tone for the celebratory night, describing it as “one of my favorite events of the year.” He told the assembled guests that the school has “made significant progress” toward its ambitious goal of building a $50 million scholarship endowment by 2026.

During this academic year, he said, more than 280 distributions were made to students from 151 donor-funded scholarships, providing $2.3 million from philanthropic supporters. Between 2016 and 2018, the scholarship endowment principal has grown by $8.2 million, increasing from $25 million to $33 million. The school has continued to add to that endowment, with seven new scholarship funds created and $2.61 million raised for scholarships so far this fiscal year.

“Even with those impressive numbers,” Kaiser said, “we cannot lose sight of the work we have yet to do.”

To underscore the impact of those numbers, the three medical students were invited to share with the crowd the paths they have taken toward careers in medicine and explain what the scholarships have meant to them.

Third year medical student Anita Wamakima said her story started in Kenya, and her family moved to the United States in search of better academic and career opportunities. Her own experience, undergoing surgery as a youngster for a congenital heart defect and later being part of an EMS team, led her to want to become a doctor. She said she has received financial support from donors during all three years of her years at Temple.

“Your support has reduced the weight of my student loans and allows me to freely explore all specialties, without feeling the pressure to choose a specialty for monetary stability,” she said. “I also appreciate that you all have decided to invest in the future of medicine, and helping the demographics of providers reflect the American population in race, gender, sexuality and religion.”

She was followed by fourth year medical student Dovber Hecht, who recently matched at Harbor UCLA, where he intends to continue his internal medicine training and then specialize in infectious disease and HIV care.

Hecht, who grew up in a Chassidic Jewish community, graduated from rabbinical school before deciding to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor. To make up for his lack of education in basic science, math and other courses, he enrolled in a small college in Brooklyn for one year. He went on to gain admittance to the post-baccalaureate program at Temple and then the Katz School of Medicine

“As a husband and father of two beautiful boys, both born while I’ve been in medical school, this scholarship means the world to me. It allows me to pursue a career out of passion and less financial considerations. And your investment in me affirms my decision and the challenging road I’ve taken to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor. I am truly grateful to the donors who continuously give for the future of medicine.”    

Dr. Kaiser then introduced Stanley Goldfarb, MD, a member of the Board of Directors of the Benjamin and Mary Siddons Measey Foundation, whose mission is to support medical education in the Philadelphia region. Since 1976, the foundation has awarded scholarships totaling more than $5 million to Temple’s medical students. Dr. Goldfarb, who is Associate Dean for Curriculum at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said the foundation will “continue to devote a substantial portion of its assets to medical student scholarships not only to help unearth the ‘acres of diamonds’ that Temple has polished, but also to improve the healthcare of our city.

“I urge you all to continue your marvelous support of this great institution and its students. The Measey Foundation will be by your side in this effort,” he promised.

To see photos from the event, click here

To make a gift in support of scholarship at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, visit giving.temple.edu/givetomed. For information about establishing a scholarship fund, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement.