News

11.11.2014

Rotary Club of Miami Hosts First Scholarship Pinning Ceremony

The Rotary Club of Miami has been awarding medical students the Thomas Brown McClelland Scholarship for more than 30 years, and recently they added what they hope will become an annual tradition to the program.

On October 29, club leaders and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine held the first Thomas Brown McClelland Scholarship Pinning Ceremony.

Nearly 20 Miller School recipients were on hand at the UM Life Science and Technology Park to accept newly created lapel pins, as well as stethoscopes given to the first-year medical students.

“It is just tangible recognition that they are one of our scholars,” said Rotary Club Treasurer Philip Seipp, who designed the lapel pin. “We hope it will pique the curiosity of other people about Rotary.”

The inspiration for the lapel pins stemmed from the interviews Rotary Club leaders hold each March to determine the winners of the Thomas Brown McClelland Scholarship.

“We noticed that these kids were in plain suits with nothing on the lapels, and Rotarians love their lapel pins. So we asked the students if they would be willing to wear them on their lab coats and suits, and they said yes,” Seipp said.

Since 1983, the Rotary Club of Miami has awarded more than $6 million to 615 students, with at least $1.8 million of those funds going to UM medical students.

The scholarship was created through an endowment from the estate of Thomas Brown McClelland, an active member of Rotary Club of Miami from 1939 to his death in 1980. A horticulturist, McClelland believed that physicians provide a great service to mankind. He designed the scholarship to help graduates from accredited Miami-Dade County high schools pursuing a medical degree.

“It is going to be incredibly helpful,” said Shahil Mehta, a first-year student in the M.D./M.P.H. program. “I am taking out loans for medical school, and any little bit of money helps.”

With the average UM medical student graduating last academic year with more than $170,000 in debt, Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., said scholarships are critical to helping keep costs in check.

“The cost of a quality medical education is daunting for those who follow the dream of becoming physicians, as they quite often find themselves in a challenging situation because of the debt that is accumulated,” said Goldschmidt, Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of the University of Miami Health System. “There is no doubt that scholarships, like the Thomas Brown McClelland scholarship, are vital to the future of medicine to allow some of our most brilliant minds to be able to go to medical school.”

First-year medical student Armando Alvarez said the ceremony provided a chance for him to meet others connected to his education.

“I think it is an unbelievable opportunity, especially since the medical school Deans are here. It gives us an opportunity to see other classmates who are getting pinned. It is also a good chance to learn more about Rotary,” said Alvarez, who is in the M.D./M.P.H. program.

In addition to pinning nine first-year students, pins were also provided to alumni, including Vicky Egusquiza, M.D. ’87, president-elect of the Medical Alumni Association and co-president of the Medical Parents Association, and Alex J. Mechaber, M.D. ’94, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education at the Miller School.

“I know how valuable it is for our medical students, as the challenge of financing a medical education becomes more and more cumbersome. So we at the school, and our students, truly appreciate this scholarship,” said Mechaber.

Rotary leaders say they have been encouraged by recent donations to the scholarship fund from past Thomas Brown McClelland scholars. Norman Kassoff, the chairman of the scholarship program, says they encourage recipients to give back to the community whenever possible.

“We want them to know there are civic organizations willing to support their education and that recognize that they have heavy debt by the time they graduate. This helps ease some of the pressure for them,” he said.

Also in attendance from Miller School medical education were Laurence Gardner, M.D., Executive Dean for Education and Policy, Richard Weisman, Pharm.D., Associate Dean for Admissions, and Ana Campo, M.D., Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Director of Medical Student Education.

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