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Alumni scholarships connect, support and nurture

By Mark L. Shelton

Medical student and scholarship recipient Stephanie Choi with Nathaniel Clark, MD’88. (photo: Office of Advancement)

Gratitude. It’s a powerful emotion that has the potential to do enormous good, particularly when channeled in a deliberate, meaningful way. For alumni of UMass Chan Medical School, funding new scholarships is a tangible way to give back to their alma mater, which many credit for their successful careers in health care and research, and to express thanks for the philanthropic support that made their own education possible. This growing tradition now plays a significant role in financial aid at the Medical School, while nurturing connections between grateful graduates and bright-eyed students who are at the beginning of a similar journey.

Although tuition at UMass Chan remains comparatively low, the rising cost of tuition, fees and living expenses associated with higher education makes scholarships more important than ever. At UMass Chan, the pace of new scholarship support has accelerated accordingly; in fiscal year 2023, an all-time high of 21 new scholarships was established. Alumni play a critical role, with more than half of the 150 named scholarship funds at UMass Chan created by or in honor of alums, with another 13 created by parents of alumni or current students. Currently, endowment scholarship and student award funds are valued at nearly $10 million.

Stephen Gorfine, MD’78, is one alum with a drive to pay it forward. Dr. Gorfine and his wife, Laurie Gorfine, established a scholarship in 2013 to honor his father, Morris Gorfine, MD, a family physician in Cambridge. Gorfine said simply that he “felt a great debt to the Medical School” for the education he received and wanted to help academically strong students. The current recipient, Emma Dudley of the T.H. Chan School of Medicine Class of 2024, plans to work with urban, underserved populations, especially women and children.

Students, in return, are grateful for scholarship support. “This scholarship helps me in that it limits the financial burden of pursuing a medical degree. As a student from a low-income family, this creates a tangible impact on my access to education,” said Dudley.

“This will help me reach my career aspirations of becoming a physician, as well as an advocate for policy changes in health care rooted at the community level. This scholarship has truly brought me joy during a tough time, and I want to genuinely thank you,” said Nicholas Scuderi, T.H. Chan School of Medicine Class of 2025 and recipient of the Class of 1981 Reunion Scholarship.

For many donors, the relationships they build with recipients of their scholarship is a deeply fulfilling part of the experience. “A big part of the reward is getting to know the student and seeing them progress through medical school. The personal connection is very important to me,” said scholarship donor Nathaniel G. Clark, MD’88. An annual scholarship celebration attended by donors and scholarship recipients at UMass Chan is always a highly anticipated event, where the poignancy of bridging the past and present is palpable.

Thirty-four group scholarships have been created by classes celebrating reunion. This area of recent emphasis builds class unity while boosting support for financial aid. Reunion also inspires alumni to establish individual scholarships, including Patricia K. Spencer, MD’77, who stepped up for her 45th reunion.

“Reflecting on my 45th reunion,” said Dr. Spencer, “I’m thankful for the excellent education I received at UMass Chan, which prepared me for a rewarding career in medicine. I think it’s important that every student who wants to become a physician has that chance, regardless of their background or financial situation.”

As the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing has grown, so too have opportunities for creating scholarships. Of its current endowed scholarships and awards, one is named in honor of an alum, the Carol Bova, PhD, RN, ANP, Scholarship. Dr. Bova earned a Master of Science at UMass Chan and later received her PhD; she went on to have an illustrious career at UMass Chan as a professor of nursing and medicine and director of the PhD Program in Nursing; and for the past nine years has served as chair of the Institutional Review Board. The donors who established the Bova Scholarship were Lillian R. Goodman, dean emerita of the nursing school and longtime nursing professor Mary K. Alexander.

At the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, students are supported via an institutional scholarship and stipend system, common to doctoral programs in the sciences across the country, where graduate students play a key role in grant-funded research as part of their apprenticeship as scholars and scientists. UMass Chan alum Diane M. (Casey) Riccio, PhD’03, and her husband, Daniel J. Riccio Jr., endowed a travel fund for graduate students that will support travel to conferences where students can present their own work and learn from others, an invaluable experience that might not otherwise be possible.

Donors often choose to honor a loved one through their scholarship. David McManus, MD’02, MSc’12, the Richard M. Haidack Professor of Medicine and chair and professor of medicine at UMass Chan, and Diana K. McManus, MD’02, first met sitting next to each other on medical school interview day in Worcester in 1998. More than two decades later, the married couple celebrated their 20th reunion year by endowing a scholarship named for David McManus’s mother, Joanne, a Boston Public School teacher who established a relationship with a school in Tanzania so lasting that they named the school for her.

Nursing student Caitlyn Healy is a beneficiary of the Carol Bova, PhD, RN, ANP, Scholarship. (photo: John Gillooly/pei)
David McManus, MD’02, MSc’12, and Diana K. McManus, MD’02, who met more than 20 years ago during their med school interviews. (photo: John Gillooly/pei)

“Joanne supported our education and the idea that everyone should have access to higher learning,” Dr. Diana McManus said. “We felt this scholarship was a very fitting way to honor her.”

At the same time, the scholarship is a lasting expression of their gratitude to UMass Chan. “Our time in medical school was a highlight in my life,” she said. “It was so inspiring. We were exposed to clinical medicine early on. At the time, it was a new way of teaching medical students. We participated in clinical care starting in our first year. My time with the Department of Pediatrics shaped my career.”

As UMass Chan continues to prepare students to lead in increasingly complex health care systems, alumni support of scholarships is a top priority of Advancing Together: The Campaign for UMass Chan. This comprehensive campaign will attract philanthropic investments across the Medical School that will define the next 50 years of learning and discovery. ■

Alumni interested in establishing an endowed scholarship, which requires a minimum investment of $25,000 over five years, can contact Prescott Stewart, executive director of advancement, at 508-856-2745 or for more information.