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Scholars Thank Donors for Scholarships and Opportunity

For the first time in three years, the Miller School of Medicine hosted an in-person celebration recently to provide a way for scholarship recipients to say “thank you” to the alumni and major donors responsible for their medical scholarships. Over brunch, students were able to share with their donors how their studies are going and how financial support has eased one of the most challenging obstacles to affording medical school.

2022 Medical Education Donors & Scholars Celebration
2022 Medical Education Donors & Scholars Celebration

Donors heard from their scholars, such as M.D. candidate Juan Diaz Hernandez (Class of 2024), who immigrated from Cuba with his mother and stepfather at a young age. Throughout his schooling, Diaz Hernandez consistently had to overcome socioeconomic barriers in his pursuit of becoming a physician—barriers that first-generation students like him often face, like balancing multiple jobs on top of his studies to ensure he could fulfill his dream of attending a premier medical school without crippling financial burden.

Donors & Scholars Luncheon 22
Juan Diaz Hernandez (center) with his family

“When I received the scholarship letter, I was flooded with happiness,” said Diaz Hernandez, who is a recipient of the Paul J. DiMare Medical Scholarship. “I celebrated with my mom and stepdad here in America and celebrated over video call with my family in Cuba, including my grandmother, uncle, father, and brothers, who were equally thrilled.”

Now finishing his second year of studies, Diaz Hernandez is expanding his studies to pursue research in anesthesiology, which he hopes to one day specialize in. He was one of more than two dozen scholarship recipients who came to express their appreciation to donors at the 2022 Medical Education Donors & Scholars Celebration, which was held April 2 at the Lakeside Village Auditorium on UM’s Coral Gables campus.

Dean Henri R. Ford, M.D.
Dean Henri R. Ford, M.D.

“We accept a remarkably talented group of students; we get many of them, but we lose some as well because we can’t offer the kind of scholarship assistance that the schools we compete with can,” said Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., Miller Professor of Medicine and senior advisor to the dean at the Miller School. “Nothing is more depressing than losing superstars because we cannot provide enough financial support. That is why scholarship support is so critical to the success of the Miller School.”

Dean Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., spoke to the magnitude of the room’s ongoing philanthropy and impact:

“Your support of our students is what makes the Miller School so outstanding,” said Ford, who is also the chief academic officer of the medical school. “You allow our medical students to attend an extraordinary medical school, learn from talented faculty, and access brilliant research opportunities.”

Alexia Barrios
Alexia Barrios

“Being awarded scholarship support has made my dream of becoming a physician that much more possible,” said Alexia Barrios, M.D. candidate in the Class of 2025 and a recipient of Class of 1964/Peter Lake Memorial Endowed Scholarship and the Arthur I. Gilbert, M.D. Family Endowed Medical Scholarship .“Without the burden of debt, I will be able to pursue my passion of helping underserved groups who don’t have proper access to health care and I’m so incredibly grateful to my donors.”

Kyla Rakoczy, M.D. candidate in the Class of 2023 and recipient of the Mrs. Betty Siegel Reader Scholarship, who plans to specialize in general surgery said, “I’m thankful every single day for the opportunity this scholarship has provided. I feel so fortunate that I haven’t had the burden of debt looming over me. I now have the opportunity to pay that forward in any way that I can— all because of the generosity of this family.”

Opportunity was a sentiment echoed throughout the celebration, and further emphasized by Bernie Stein. Stein, who as the attorney representing the estate of Jeannette Newton, helped secure a gift of more than $1 million to support medical scholarships.

“… Medical students have a great opportunity to excel at this university and I’m happy to contribute to their success,” said Stein, who with his wife, Lyn Pont, Ph.D., is also a supporter of the Miller School of Medicine Scholarship.

Alex J. Mechaber, M.D.
Alex J. Mechaber, M.D.

Alex J. Mechaber, M.D. ’94, spoke on behalf of the Miller School of Medicine’s Medical Alumni Association (MAA):

“The Medical Alumni Association exists to promote the welfare of the medical school through its relationship with alumni and students,” said Mechaber, who is president of the MAA and former senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education. “Scholarship support is one of the most vital ways of supporting our students and I would like to thank all of you here today for your generosity and continued engagement with your alma matter.”

Donors who attended the celebration included:

-Marc and Jerilynn Gidney, and, their daughter, Candice Macy, who, as co- directors of the Mrs. Betty Siegel Reader Scholarship Fund, Marc, Jerilynn, and Candice, over-see an incredible commitment of more than $1 million to medical scholarships.

-John Edward Smith and Aldo Busot, representatives of the Dr. John T. MacDonald Foundation, which has supported the Miller School across many disciplines for decades, including scholarships and the School Health Initiative.

-Ronald J. Trapana, M.D. ’77, and his wife, Maryrose, who have made a generous gift toward increasing the pool of scholarship funds.

-Bernie Stein and his wife, Lyn Pont, Ph.D., as the attorney representing the estate of Jeannette Newton.

– Francisco Flores, M.D. ’95, and his wife, Maria Lalinde Flores, who established the Francisco Flores, M.D. Endowed Scholarship.

-The Rotary Club of Miami: Diane Landsberg, Philip Seipp, and Robin Shelley.

-Contributors to the John K. Robinson Scholarship and endowed class scholarships.

If you are interested in exploring or deepening your scholarship support, please contact Megan Brahimi at [email protected]du.

Hear from the Class of 2022: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH9OyQ6BaMs

Tags: Dean Henri Ford, Dr. Alex Mechaber, Medical Alumni Association, Medical Education Donors and Scholars Luncheon, Miller Schcool of Medicine