Some things are just meant to be.
In 2009, when New York native Imani Driskell was just beginning to look at medical schools, she stumbled upon a newly posted article on the UC College of Medicine’s website that piqued her interest.It featured Kenneth Davis, MD, a professor in the department of surgery, and his wife, Johnie, who had started a minority scholarship fund with $10,000 of their own money to honor Lucy Oxley—the first African-American to earn a medical degree at UC in 1935.
The article stated that the Davises’ monetary gift was to be put into an endowment fund as seed money, with hopes the fund would grow large enough to award scholarships from the earned interest.
Driskell says she was struck by the Davises’ obvious altruism. What Driskell could not have known at the time was that she would be accepted into the UC College of Medicine in 2011, nor would she have guessed that she would be the first medical student at UC to receive a scholarship award from the Oxley Scholarship Fund.
"It was really serendipitous for me, and I felt honored and humbled,” Driskell says of being both "surprised and pleased” to see the $3,000 Oxley grant, among other financial awards, in her spring 2012 financial aid package.
"At the time I read the article, I remember thinking how nice it was that it was named for the first African-American graduate from UC College of Medicine,” says Driskell.
According to the UC Foundation, the Oxley Scholarship endowment fund reached $50,000 in 2011, and in turn produced sufficient earnings to make a $3,000 award. The Oxley Fund is an endowment fund within the Marilyn Hughes Gaston Scholars Program at the UC College of Medicine and was established in 1999 to provide scholarships for admitted students at the college who come from a population traditionally underrepresented in the community of physicians.
Funds are awarded to students who have financial need and have shown the interest and desire to practice medicine where populations are underserved.
"It is phenomenal to be able to make an award so soon after starting the scholarship and I think it says a great deal about the donors and their enthusiasm to support this cause,” Davis says, citing Driskell’s credentials as a match to the scholarship’s intended purpose. (Driskell earned her undergraduate degree at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., in 2002, and completed a post-baccalaureate pre-med program at City College of New York in 2009.)
Driskell came to UC with a strong academic record, a history of community service, experience as a mentor to undergraduates, financial need … "and persistence,” says Davis, who serves on the Oxley Scholarship review committee.
As an African-American, Driskell says the article came back to mind when she was applying to medical schools, because she wanted her medical school of choice to be one that included some focus on the culturally competent physician—meaning a curriculum that equips physicians with awareness, knowledge and skills to better treat the increasingly diverse U.S. population.
The Oxley Scholarship, she says, made it apparent that UC was looking toward the future of medicine and its physicians.
It is the same mission being asked of medical schools across the country, says William Harris, program coordinator in UC’s Office of Diversity and Community Affairs. However, it’s not as easy to accomplish at UC as it is elsewhere, especially in Ohio, he says, because other medical schools have large endowments to ensure a cap on a medical students’ out-of-pocket expenses.
"We wind up losing a lot of well-qualified students, minority or not, because of the caps that we don’t have to offer,” Harris says, adding that finances are a strong determining factor when it comes to making a medical school selection.
This was exactly the same sentiment voiced by the Davises in the original article: "What I’ve seen is a lot of students who liked it here … they liked the supportive environment and the atmosphere, but chose not to attend because they got financial aid someplace else.”
While $3,000 might seem like a tiny drop in the college-debt bucket, it’s a noble gesture, Harris says, and the fund is expected to gain supporters and momentum, just as it has in the past two years, to provide additional scholarship awards.
The Oxley Scholarship, Davis says, "Makes a strong, clear statement about the UC community’s belief in and commitment to diversity,” with diversity being the pathway to a physician workforce that is best suited to address health disparities and to ensure quality health care for everyone, everywhere.
Driskell says that she was a little nervous about moving from New York to Cincinnati, because it’s the farthest west she’s ever been, but it feels like home here … and some things are just meant to be.
For more information about the Oxley Scholarship or other scholarship opportunities in the College of Medicine, please contact Bernard Wells, director of development, at 513-556-7723 or firstname.lastname@example.org.