Vanderbilt University School of Medicine launched the Dean’s Scholarship Challenge in January 2022 with the goal of adding $10 million to available scholarship support for medical school students. The yearlong matching gift effort aims to expand scholarship support through a combination of donor gifts and a University match for students in the MD program, Medical Scientist Training Program and other dual-degree programs. 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.
“The Dean’s Scholarship Challenge is a special time in our history,” said Jeff Balser, MD’90, PhD’90, Dean of the School of Medicine and President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “It is an enormous opportunity for alumni and friends of our medical school to have an outsized impact with their giving and support the future.”
A timely call to support leaders in medicine
The Dean’s Scholarship Challenge arrives at a pivotal moment, as the pandemic has laid bare the need for high-caliber, innovative leaders in a rapidly changing global health care landscape. The School of Medicine has deftly optimized its curriculum over the past decade to train students to meet the unprecedented public health challenges facing the world today.
Vanderbilt’s “Curriculum 2.0” has served as an exemplary model for other medical schools for its holistic community-based emphasis on small-group learning, immersive clinical experiences and blend of conceptual foundations with practical applications. The School of Medicine’s personalized curriculum in a supportive and collaborative community is, according to Balser, part of what sets it apart from other institutions. “We are not just training the minds of our students,” he said. “We are growing their hearts for service at a time when the world needs Vanderbilt-trained leaders more than ever.”
With students facing rising costs of medical school, the Dean’s Scholarship Challenge aims to grow the School of Medicine’s scholarship endowment and reduce the debt its graduates take on. The medical school’s yearly tuition, currently at $63,610, remains lower than many of its peers, yet many Vanderbilt students take on debt. For example, 51% of students in the Class of 2021 borrowed student loans and graduated with an average debt of $158,720.
“Scholarships are crucial for students,” said Donald Brady, MD’90, BA’86, senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education. “Students who can choose medical school based on their passions and interests, and not their finances, will drive the future of health care. They will drive better outcomes for their patients and for society in general. By offering more scholarship support, we can ensure the best and brightest students from all walks of life choose Vanderbilt. Moreover, the ripple effect of the benefit of a scholarship, not just on the student themselves — but also on the thousands of patients that they see or that benefit from their groundbreaking discoveries — quantumly amplifies the magnitude of the gift.”
A life-changing impact
Kianna Jackson, MD’20, is one of thousands of School of Medicine alumni whose life has been forever impacted by generous scholarship donors. Growing up in Evansville, Indiana, with her mom and sister, Jackson excelled at science and math. But as a middle schooler she was, “kind of a troubled kid and struggled a bit,” she said. To guide her down a better path, her mother enrolled her in a rigorous public charter high school that nurtured her gifts and talents and expanded her educational horizons. Jackson flourished and went on to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — becoming the first college graduate in her family.
Jackson’s success continues today. After MIT she attended VUSM and was the Founders Medalist for the Class of 2020, an award bestowed to the student graduating with first honors. She was also the first Black student to receive the Founders Medal at the medical school. Currently Jackson is a second-year plastic surgery resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her tremendous accomplishments were bolstered along the way by scholarship support.
“I had always received scholarships in the past, so when I was thinking about a medical school, one that would be able to support me was high on my list because it would allow my family to not worry about how I was going to pay for it or how much debt I would have,” said Jackson. Receiving a full-tuition scholarship to Vanderbilt lifted a major financial burden from her mother’s shoulders and helped her sister follow in her footsteps by also going to medical school, she says.
A recipient of the 1965 School of Medicine Class Scholarship and the Darline and Robert Raskind Scholarship, Jackson is matter-of-fact: “Without scholarship donors to Vanderbilt, I wouldn’t be a doctor today. I think it is incredibly important that we diversify our fields and give scholarships to people who really need them so that they can enter the field of medicine without financial barriers. I am very grateful for the financial support I received from Vanderbilt and from the scholarship donors who made that possible.”
Alumni leading the charge
Seventy-one percent of Vanderbilt medical students receive scholarship support of some kind, and much of that support comes from alumni — like Edward “Ned” Fody, MD’75, and his wife, Nancy, who made one of the earliest commitments to the Dean’s Scholarship Challenge. Longtime supporters of Vanderbilt University and the School of Medicine, the Fodys also support the 1975 School of Medicine Class Scholarship, and in 2005 they established the Edward and Nancy Fody Chair, which supports a faculty member conducting pathology research.
“I have always loved Vanderbilt,” Fody said. “I had a great experience there and wanted to give something back. I just think as members of my generation are approaching retirement and thinking about what got us all started — it was Vanderbilt. We are where we are today because of Vanderbilt.”
Before attending medical school at Vanderbilt, Fody received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, where he and Nancy met in the Chemistry Department. At Vanderbilt, he completed a residency in pathology, then served as a house officer.
Fody credits Vanderbilt for preparing him for his successful career. He has served as a laboratory director for more than 30 years at various institutions and recently was chief of pathology at Holland Hospital in Holland, Michigan, and a physician at Western Michigan Pathology Associates. Ned and Nancy, a CPA and co-president of the Kent County Medical Society Alliance, have contributed to many philanthropic causes.
What motivates their generosity? “It’s the right thing to do,” Nancy said. “That’s the way I was brought up. That’s how Ned was brought up.”
While the Fodys have committed to fund a new scholarship, the challenge also encourages donors to make qualifying gifts to support existing endowed scholarship funds at the medical school. Eligible commitments include outright gifts or pledges up to five years from individual donors, families, corporations or foundations.
Honoring the past with a gift for the future
Richard “Rick” Hoos, BA’69, MD’73, has joined the Dean’s Scholarship Challenge by supporting an existing endowed scholarship fund named in honor of Jack Davies, MD. Davies joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1963 and served as chair of the Department of Anatomy until he retired in 1984.
Davies’ gross anatomy class was one of Hoos’ first courses in medical school. “He was one of the more imposing figures,” Hoos recalled. “He was demanding but also very fair and often very merciful.”
There was only one woman in Davies’ class, graduate student Paula Calderini, MS’75, PhD’82, MDiv’01. “She had the annoying habit of getting better grades than I did,” Hoos joked. “Other than that, we got along. In fact, we got along so well that about six months after our first date we were married.”
The couple left Nashville for five years during Rick’s training but returned briefly so Paula could defend her master’s thesis, memorably, while she was eight months pregnant with their first child. The couple settled in Middle Tennessee for good in 1978 when Rick opened his practice and Paula returned to Vanderbilt to earn her doctoral degree.
When Davies retired in 1984, Paula took over as the director of his gross anatomy course and led it for more than 15 years. “She followed very well in Jack’s footsteps,” Hoos said. “She could be stern, and she could be intimidating, but boy did she care for her students.” Davies was Paula’s mentor in both science and religion, explained Hoos, and Davies’ position as a devout Anglican influenced her decision to change careers later in life and become a Methodist minister after earning her Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Paula served at churches in Franklin, Tennessee, until she retired in 2010. Rick retired soon after, and the couple focused their time on their grandchildren and traveling. Sadly, Paula passed away from pneumonia in 2017 on one of their trips together.
Not long after, one of Paula’s former students gave a gift in her honor to the Jack Davies Scholarship Fund — a fund that Hoos had never heard of. He soon learned that it was started by Davies’ former students and had enough money to fund about half of one scholarship, prompting him to contribute and generously strengthen the fund.
“Honoring Paula by honoring her mentor seems to me to be exactly the kind of out-of-the-limelight memorial she would like,” Hoos said. “I hope my fellow alumni will join me in making a scholarship gift. Give in a mentor’s name; give in your name or in honor of someone else. Together, let’s sound a bell now that will ring through the School of Medicine’s halls well into the future.”
For more information about the Dean’s Scholarship Challenge, visit vu.edu/mdchallenge or contact Taylor Wood, associate dean, Development and Alumni Relations at 615-343-5648 or firstname.lastname@example.org.