Celebrating support for scholarships

Donors recognized at annual dinner by UMMS leaders and students 

October 2017

celebrating support for scholarships

“Your gifts have great power,” said Terence R. Flotte, MD, executive deputy chancellor, provost and dean of the School of Medicine, to scholarship donors—friends, family and alumni—and scholarship recipients who attended the Annual Scholarship Dinner held on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. “They go beyond helping the students of today and even tomorrow; they will also benefit the communities these students will one day serve.”

The Annual Scholarship Dinner is a celebration recognizing donors who have generously contributed to scholarships, which include endowed and current-use scholarship funds that support UMass Medical School students.

This year, 31 students were awarded more than $40,000 in scholarships supported by UMMS alumni donors and 129 students were awarded more than $589,000 in scholarships and financial aid supported by friends of the Medical School. In addition, 20 new endowed scholarships—including 13 that were supported by alumni—were recently established.

“Your support makes it possible for so many of our students to fulfill a dream of helping others—of making a real difference in the world,” said Dean Flotte, who is also the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education.

“The work we do at UMass Medical School focuses greatly on one thing,” said John Hayes, vice chancellor for advancement. “To educate and train aspiring physicians, nurse educators and advanced nurse practitioners, and basic science researchers. They are the future of medicine, which means that you are the future of medicine, too—because so much of what we do and offer our students would not be possible without your support.”

As is tradition at this annual dinner, students who have been awarded scholarships shared personal accounts of their journeys to UMass Medical School and how donor support has helped them (see below).

In addition, Irv Heifetz, MD’79 R’82, was recognized for his longstanding commitment to the Alumni Association, which has steadfastly supported scholarships. For nearly 25 years, Dr. Heifetz served as president of the Alumni Association board, which hosted the scholarship dinner for many years. As a result, Dr. Heifetz had been emcee of this annual donor recognition event. In May 2017, he stepped down from his role as president and remains an active member of the association.

This video, which was shown at the event, illustrates how donor-supported scholarships are making a difference:


2017 Annual Scholarship Dinner: Student Speakers

Bill Selkirk, School of Medicine Class of 2020, has always had a passion for helping and protecting others. He proudly served for four years as a U.S. marine, notably as a section commander of a company directly responsible for the safety and security of the president.

After returning to his home town of South Hadley and a brief stint working in a factory, Bill became a fifth-generation firefighter. From there, he became a certified emergency medical technician.

“It was at this point that I discovered an incredible drive to help others through medicine,” he said. “I thrived on the challenge that emergency medicine offered, and I had great pride in what I was doing for it allowed me to transition from serving my county to serving my community.”

After three years, his passion for medicine and service grew, but as a paramedic he was only able to affect patients’ lives through short encounters. Bill realized that he wanted to play a larger role in his patients’ well-being, and decided to pursue a career in medicine.

After putting himself through programs for his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, he joined UMass Medical School. Bill credits donor-supported scholarships for making his medical education possible.

“The burden of these school loans falls solely on me and my wife,” he said. “Receiving a scholarship here has helped me to focus not only on my education, but on my family as well—especially now, since we are expecting a new addition in January. Thank you all who have made generous contributions toward my education and that of my classmates.”

Evangelia (Vanji) Murray, School of Medicine Class of 2018, has developed a wonderful relationship with the donors who established the scholarship she has been awarded all four years of her medical education.

“Over the years I have gotten to know Sandie Rothschild and her family. Her husband Ed and his brother Steven established the scholarship for their father, Alfred Rothschild” she said. “I’ve been so grateful for their kindness and interest in my life. But I’m not sure if they realize that, if not for this gift, I would literally not be speaking to you as a soon-to-be graduate of UMass Medical School.

UMMS was Vanji’s first choice for medical school, even before she came to interview. All of the doctors she’d met who had trained here left a lasting impression, and the appeal of attending a medical school so close to her family and friends was particularly strong.

The day of her UMMS interview, she learned that her best friend had been killed accidentally in Thailand, where she was traveling. Dealing with this loss at such a young age made her realize how important her support system was to her well-being.

Vanji had been fortunate enough to receive a “full ride with a fellowship” at Emory University in Atlanta. For her working-class family, this removed the financial burden almost completely. Still, the choice weighed heavily on her, as everything she cared about and needed was in Massachusetts.

So she wrote to UMMS to explain her situation. A short time later, she received a financial aid package that matched the offer from Emory, and included the Rothschild scholarship. “To this day, I’m not sure if that letter helped, but thank you if it did,” she said.

“Each year before this dinner, I re-read the story of the physician Alfred Rothschild, who is honored by my scholarship. From a position of deep gratitude, I hope that I can honor his legacy by bringing the same energy and compassion to my own future practice as a physician.”

From left: Scholarship recipients and Scholarship Dinner student speakers Bill Selkirk, Class of 2020, and Evangelia (Vanji) Murray, Class of 2018, with Dean Flotte.