It was a special night as University of Colorado President Bruce Benson addressed a crowd of more than 100 scholarship benefactors, students and faculty November 1 at the Denver Country Club. The occasion was a celebration of the President’s Scholarship Initiative–started in 2010, the effort was designed to provide crucial financial support for students of diverse backgrounds who otherwise would have been unable to attend the medical school.
“This program enabled us to attract the best, brightest, most diverse group of medical students possible,” said President Benson, who thanked alumni and friends for contributing to the program. “The President’s Scholarship has been critical to recruitment in the CU School of Medicine, and it has made a huge difference.”
Since President Benson’s office made its original $10 million investment in the program, more than 50 alumni and faculty supporters have established new named scholarships, expanding the school’s ability to reach more students from around the country. He noted that average student debt at graduation is more than $200,000, and while this program has made a difference for many students, there is still more to do to lower that debt load.
These prestigious four-year awards have supported 115 students pursuing their medical degrees, including second-year medical student Zachary Blea. With a wife and a 9-year-old daughter, scholarship support takes some of the worry about debt out of the picture and lets him fully experience medical school. “I think that more people are afraid of getting an education because of the cost, and from a societal standpoint, that is a sad thing,” he said.
For first-year student Jahmel Jordon, a first-generation American born to a Jamaican single mother, the Battock Presidential Scholarship is enabling him to fulfill a lifelong goal. “I have always dreamed of becoming a physician,” he said, “and the Battocks’ leadership and philanthropy have given me the wonderful opportunity to attend my number one medical school.”
CU School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr., MD, congratulated the Class of 2021 and all of the President’s Scholars in attendance. “You should be proud,” he said. “We’re proud to have you here.” With the help of generous benefactors, the School of Medicine has invested more than $20 million into the program, and another $8.5 million in diversity pipeline programs, all to help CU Anschutz attract and retain a more diverse and highly qualified student body.
“We aren’t doing this out of obligation,” said Dean Reilly, “but out of aspiration.” He noted that the School of Medicine is dedicated to recruiting the best students from across the country, and diversity scholarships have been an important factor in its ability to do so. Since the program’s inception, diversity among the student body has grown from 11 percent to 32 percent today.
“Take a walk down the School of Medicine hallway and look at the photos of each class of medical students,” he said, “and you’ll see how far we’ve come.”