Twelve members of the Class of 2019 at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University are the newest Harrison Scholars and the recipients of scholarships made possible by the largest gift in the medical school’s history.
The unprecedented $66 million gift by Dr. J. Harold Harrison, the renowned vascular surgeon from Kite, Georgia, and 1948 MCG graduate, and his wife, Sue, enables MCG to offer 12 scholarships – six full and six partial – to each freshman class. Six scholarships – three full and three partial – were given to students in the Class of 2018.
“What a remarkable gift to our medical school,” said Dr. Peter F. Buckley, MCG dean. “The Harrison’s generosity continues to ensure that we are able to continue to recruit the best and brightest students – diverse in their backgrounds and experiences – to Georgia’s public medical school.”
The full scholarships, the first MCG has ever offered, cover the entire $28,358 annual, instate tuition cost, said Dr. James B. Osborne, president and CEO of the MCG Foundation, which has oversight of the Harrison gift. Six Harrison Scholars received partial scholarships of $15,000 annually.
“Every year we are privileged to choose a brilliant group of the next great physicians to attend this medical school,” said Dr. Paul Wallach, MCG vice dean for academic affairs. “These scholarships help us ensure that the most outstanding among them also choose us.”
The merit-based scholarships, which emphasize intellect and outstanding leadership potential, are effective for four years but will be reviewed annually to ensure that recipients continue to meet eligibility standards.
Osborne, a longtime friend of Harrison’s said of the most recent scholarship recipients, “I know Dr. Harrison would be pleased at the caliber of students who will carry on his legacy as a scholar, innovator and physician.”
“We are grateful to our MCG Foundation leadership and to Dr. Wallach for another stellar group of scholars this year,” Buckley added. “We are proud of them, and of course, we are proud of all our medical students.”
In addition to the student scholarships, 10 University Distinguished Chairs, funded at $2 million each, will be established over the next five years thanks to the Harrison gift.
Harrison died June 2, 2012, and a few months later, GRU announced that Harrison and his wife, Sue, had given his name and $10 million toward construction of a new academic home for the medical school. The J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons opened this fall. The MCG Foundation announced the $66 million gift for student scholarship and endowed chairs for faculty in April 2013.
This year’s recipients are:
- John Ahn, of Calhoun, Georgia, studied biology at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. While in college, he spent six months working and living in two hospitals in Chad, one of Africa’s poorest countries. Ahn survived four bouts with malaria while there performing an array of jobs with other volunteers, from feeding malnourished babies to changing dressings. “Through that experience, I developed a meaningful attraction to the heart of medicine: the patients,” he writes.
- Katharine Armstrong, of Atlanta, wants to pursue a career as a pediatric oncologist. While studying music and biochemistry at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, watching her best friend’s father lose his battle with cancer solidified her future goal. Spending two months after her sophomore year living with a family in Argentina and teaching at a secondary school only confirmed her desire to work with children.
- Leah Brown of Oconee County, Georgia, graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in microbiology and is considering a career in infectious diseases. “Maybe I won’t physically touch every patient … but my footprints will be made regardless, for the one who makes the pivotal step in a journey is not always so clearly remembered. But every step can make a lasting impression,” she writes.
- Mariah Burch, of Atlanta, is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in neuroscience, who also shadowed MCG alum Dr. Thomas Calk, whom she says taught her an invaluable lesson while treating a patient with a genetic abnormality that left him with severe mental and physical disabilities. “During the appointment, Dr. Calk and the patient seemed like old friends. When the patient left, his smile was genuine. I observed that even if it’s not possible to heal a patient, it is possible to improve his or her life,” she writes.
- Christine Gross, of North Augusta, is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in biology, who also received her doctorate from Georgia Regents University. Gross aspires to be a physician-scientist. “I believe the best scientists have an eye for the needs of patients, and the finest physicians understand the science behind the medicine they prescribe,” she writes.
- Vishwajeeth Pasham, of Alpharetta, Georgia, is a graduate of the University of South Florida who studied biomedical sciences. Before deciding to go to medical school, Pasham spent time shadowing physicians and scientists, including an M.D./Ph.D., who practiced plastic surgery and researched wound healing.
- Alexandra Sawyer, of Atlanta, is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where she studied epidemiology and health promotions. Through her work with the Farm Worker Family Health Program, she gained valuable perspectives on public health, but she “valued most the times I sat down with patients to discuss their individual questions and gained a deepened desire for the clinical skills to assist them further,” she writes.
- Ryan Schwertner, of Saint Simons Island, Georgia, graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in biology. “I want to be the doctor that people trust to act in their best interest, no matter what, and after completing medical school, this is the doctor that I believe I can become,” he writes.
- William “Cole” Skinner, of Savannah, a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in biology, spent his childhood learning life lessons while gardening with his grandfather, also a physician. “Through gardening together, Pop taught me an invaluable lesson about being a physician. Though I was too young to observe him at work, I will always recall his selfless attitude. Whether it was responding to patient calls during the night or happily helping those who he knew could not pay their bill, he always put his patients first,” he writes.
- Andrew Warren, of Atlanta, is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he studied biology. As a Georgia Tech President’s Scholar, he was able to travel to Yugoslavia as an expedition leader. On the trip, the group explored the causes of and gained appreciation for the 1990’s ethnic conflict and subsequent breakup of Yugoslavia.
- Erena Weathers, of Atlanta, is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in microbiology and bacteriology. As a hobby and a way to relieve the stress of school and work, she runs a blog about how to maintain weight while eating well.
- Wells Yang, of Johns Creek, Georgia, is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he studied biomedical engineering. “Both medicine and engineering revolve around solving problems, and although their objectives may be different sometimes, the same passion and dedication are necessary to succeed in both professions,” he writes.