Paying It Forward:
The 2013 Scholarship Celebration
On April 10, 2013, Paul G. Ramsey, M.D., hosted the UW School of Medicine’s annual Scholarship Celebration. At this event, we bring together exceptional students who receive scholarship support and the donors who make this assistance possible. This year we were joined by the Huckabay family (Richard and Kathy Williams, Susan Huckabay and John Huckabay), pictured below with student Keir Warner. The family made two generous matching challenge gifts in 2011 and 2012 that inspired many other donors to give.
Photos: David Wentworth Photography
Also pictured are two of the evening’s donor speakers, Wes Van Voorhis, M.D., Ph.D., the head of the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and his wife, the Rev. Debra Jarvis, with student Nathan Furukawa. Rev. Jarvis commented upon how generosity had changed her life, and noted that the best repayment was “paying it forward.”
We’re delighted to share the inspiring remarks, below, made by our two student speakers, second-year student Mark Wefel and fourth-year student Estell Williams. If you are interested in learning more about scholarships and student support, or the volunteers who advocate for them, please contact Caroline Anderson.
Second-year Medical Student
Recipient, John and Florence Cooper Endowed Scholarship in Medicine
After my first year of medical school, I worked with Dr. B, and I was so impressed by his skills and his dedication. He made a seven-hour round trip to Denver to see a patient so that he could have a plan in place for the specialized care the patient might need when they came back to this small town. I tell you this to show how dedicated rural physicians are and how intertwined the life of a rural physician and that of their community become.
Now I’m looking forward to my third year of medical school, and through all the challenges that are yet to come in my future and other students’ futures, knowing that we have the support and dedication of faculty and staff allows us to focus on what we need to, studying to become the best medical professionals we can. For your support and dedication, I would like to gratefully say: thank you.
Fourth-year Medical Student
Recipient, Dr. and Mrs. Lloyd C. Elam Endowed Scholarship
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to share my gratitude and thoughts with you this evening. My hope for the next five minutes is to highlight why an event like this is critical to the success of students like me at the University of Washington, who would otherwise not be here without the support you have provided, which is evidence of not only your generosity but a selflessness to pay it forward.
I would argue that the scholarships are more than additional funds for students to mitigate the increasing cost of tuition; they are an investment in our future, they are an investment in my future. Your contributions prove that you have faith in our ability to change the world around us. I use the word “faith,” because, more likely than not, before tonight you have not met the students who are the beneficiaries of your contributions. And it is this faith that makes your support all the more amazing.
While I was preparing my speech for tonight, many topics ran through my mind: but then I thought, what, of all the things along my journey have proven unconditional and unwavering? The answer was simple: mentorship. This topic is fitting, because, like mentors, you and many others have invested in my future. What’s more, you have opened doors that I never knew existed. And now I can thank you in the flesh.
To paraphrase Justice Sotomayor, “When a young person, even a gifted one, grows up without proximate living examples of what she may aspire to become, her goal remains abstract. But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of, ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.’” Mentors identify characteristics in us that we do not see in ourselves, and in so doing they empower us to strive for greatness by practicing three discrete acts: mastery, exposure and nurturance.
Mastery. My father, born a sharecropper in rural Louisiana, the youngest of 11, only reached a third-grade reading level. Despite this, my father realized that he needed to be a master of his trade — taking on both carpentry and business, eventually owning three small businesses. No small feat for a man who learned to read at the seasoned age of 50. My father’s mastery of carpentry, business and the written word was evidence to me that mastery is necessary to succeed. My father was my very first mentor without my ever knowing, and his self-sacrifice to pay for my Jesuit-school tuition before paying his mortgage ensured that I would have an excellent foundation to master my own skills.
Exposure. A great friend once asked me whether I believed in the notion, “You can become whatever you dream to become.” I told him, why wouldn’t I? He explained, “It is true, we can become whatever we dream to become, but it is also true that we can only dream of that we have seen.” He was absolutely right. How can you become something, or even dream of something that you’ve never seen or heard of? This is why the exposure provided by mentors is critical to a student’s success. Before my sophomore year in high school, I did not dream [of becoming] or even know how one became a doctor. However, that year, I was accepted into the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program (SMYSP), a program aimed at exposing disadvantaged youth from poor-performing school districts to health professions. It was exposure to the field of medicine through the SMYSP program and the dedication of its program director that allowed me to realize my dream of becoming a physician.
Nurturance. Once formed, this dream would have easily died in the midst of being raised by a single parent in an inner-city neighborhood riddled with poverty and violence. However, it was through the nurturing hand of my mentors that I was able to walk across the stage as the first in my family to graduate from college. But my dream was not just college. I wanted to be a doctor. And after entering medical school, I was nurtured by many faculty and staff members at the University of Washington, many of whom are sitting in the audience tonight. This reached its pinnacle after Dean Ramsey introduced me to Dr. Carlos Pellegrini, chairman of the Department of Surgery at UW. Upon our introduction and learning my story, Dr. Pellegrini shared that our stories had more in common than not. He recognized that he was afforded mentors who nurtured him along his path to greatness, and I am humbled that he has taken to nurturing my ambitions to become a surgeon.
I share these short stories to highlight that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, who have mastered their skill, exposed me to my dream and nurtured my potential. And as I look out into the audience tonight I offer my thanks to all of you — the giants in my life. I am here today because of you, my gracious mentors, who have confirmed my potential, empowering me to aspire to greatness, and I am excited to continue on this journey. And I am honored to report that, starting in June, I will begin my general surgery residency at the University of Washington.
As we continue to think of mentorship and our roles in the lives of others, I leave you with this final thought from First Lady Michelle Obama, and I quote, “We should always have three friends in our lives — one who walks ahead, who we look up to and we follow; one who walks beside us, who is with us every step of our journey; and then, one who we reach back for and we bring along after we’ve cleared the way.” Have a great night.