Release Date: May 10, 2016
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The debt that medical students have to repay when they graduate is pretty much a fact of life for anyone who aspires to be a physician.
But not so much for Jessica LaPiano of Lancaster and Christine Robertson of Williamsville, first-year students in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.
They are the 2016 recipients of the Western New York Medical Scholarship award, which provides four-year tuition scholarships to select, local students who attend the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.
The scholarships are provided by the Western New York Medical Scholarship Fund, an independent, community organization founded last year by UB medical school alumnus John J. Bodkin II, MD, who is co-chair with David M. Zebro, principal of Strategic Investments & Holdings. They teamed up with local organizations to create the fund to keep more locally trained physicians in Western New York to help address the physician shortage.
“We felt that if we could offer scholarships to Western New York students who went to high school here and have established family ties here, and then offer incentives, such as mentoring by local doctors, we could influence them to stay and practice here after graduation and residency,” said Bodkin.
That plan works perfectly for both scholarship recipients especially as they contemplate Buffalo’s future as a regional health care destination.
And while they each note that graduating without significant medical school debt is an enormous gift, they also stressed their gratitude to the scholarship committee for allowing them to be able to give back to the community that has nurtured them.
“I love the city of Buffalo and have always wanted to remain here,” said Robertson, who is thinking about pursuing general surgery. “The city and its people are going through an incredible renaissance right now and it is so exciting to be part of that progress. It is such an honor to have been awarded this scholarship. I am thrilled that I will have the university’s support to stay and practice in Buffalo.”
LaPiano said: “Knowing that I have a place in the Buffalo medical community when I have completed my training motivates me to work even harder,” she said. “I am very excited to know that I will be part of Buffalo’s rising medical community. Buffalo has been and always will be the city that I call home. I am grateful for the opportunity this scholarship provides me to give back to the community that has inspired and mentored me.”
The 2016 scholarships are being funded by the John R. Oishei Foundation, the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation and West-Herr Automotive Group.
To be eligible for these scholarships, UB medical students must meet highly select criteria: They must have graduated from a high school within the eight counties of Western New York, excel academically and have a demonstrated financial need.
In order to accept the scholarship, they also must pledge to stay in Western New York to practice for at least five years. Each awardee will receive a minimum of $30,000 annually for each of the four years of medical school.
Representatives from the Western New York Medical Scholarship Fund and the medical school conduct interviews with candidates who meet these criteria and make the final decision.
Local leaders stress that addressing the region’s physician shortage will take multiple approaches. For example, the new medical school building also will address the shortage because it will allow UB to increase its class size, educating 30 percent more physicians each year.