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Giving in Action: Creating Opportunities for Future Leaders in Medicine

Posted by Morgan Kroll on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Alumni News, Giving in Action, Spring 2022, Vanderbilt Community .

John Cobb, MD’78, remembers vividly what it was like working summer jobs as a student to help pay for his tuition and living expenses. The summer before his senior year at Emory University, he was a scrub tech at Children’s Egleston Hospital in Atlanta, an experience that solidified his desire to pursue medicine as a career. After graduating a quarter early, he went home to Brunswick, Georgia, and worked at the local pulp and paper mill to save money to attend Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“The first day on the job, I sat down with the supervisor and told him I was going to med school in the fall. From day one everyone there called me ‘Doc,’” recalled Cobb with a laugh.

His time at Vanderbilt was transformative — the School of Medicine not only prepared him for a successful career in ophthalmology, but he also met classmates Curtis Basinger, MD’78, BE’74; Thomas Nygaard, MD’78, BS’74; Ann Price, MD’78, BA’71; Deborah Smith, MD’78; and others who became lifelong friends. Whether they are catching up at Reunion, cross country skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or cheering on Vanderbilt football against favorite rival Ole Miss, Cobb and his Class of 1978 classmates remain close.

“The camaraderie and fellowship our class had, and continues to have, is what remains special to me,” he said. “With 80 people in our class we got to know everyone well. It was a very supportive place.”

It was that sense of connection and a drive to help students that spurred the class to establish the 1978 School of Medicine Class Scholarship in honor of their 30th Reunion. Bolstered by many donors, including Cobb and his wife Shelby, the fund has grown into the largest endowed class scholarship at the School of Medicine. In addition, the Cobbs have supported Vanderbilt for decades, and John has served as a member of the Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association and in other volunteer roles.

Today, he is embracing the yearlong Dean’s Scholarship Challenge, encouraging donors to make qualifying gifts to create or support existing endowed scholarship funds. Through December 2022, Vanderbilt University will match all endowed scholarship gifts of $100,000 or more to the School of Medicine, up to

$5 million. Cobb is creating a new scholarship, and encourages his fellow alumni to join him in contributing whatever they can to ensure Vanderbilt remains attractive to the best and brightest students.

“By easing the burden of student debt, we give medical students better opportunities and allow them to decide what to practice based on their interests and not their finances,” said Cobb. “The cumulative generosity of our Vanderbilt community can make a tremendous impact on these future medical leaders.”