The Power of Scholarships for Medical Students

Irène Mathieu received a Canby Robinson  Society scholarship.
Irène Mathieu received a Canby Robinson Society scholarship.

As a Fulbright scholar in the Dominican Republic, Irène Mathieu developed a passion for global health. But she knew attending medical school would likely leave her with substantial debt.

A native of Virginia and graduate of The College of William & Mary, Mathieu visited several medical schools but found the community environment she was looking for at Vanderbilt. “It was my top choice—not only were faculty and students welcoming when I visited, but they followed up with me throughout the application process,” she says.

She was thrilled when she received an acceptance call, but she needed to wait on financial aid offers to determine which school she would attend. Several weeks later Dr. George Hill contacted Mathieu with the news that she had been selected as a full scholarship recipient. “The scholarship made my decision to come here a no-brainer,” says Mathieu. In the future she hopes to research primary care and noncommunicable diseases in middle-income countries.

The Scholarship Initiative for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, launched in fall 2011, extends opportunity to students who seek to make a difference in medicine. A larger scholarship endowment will allow students like Mathieu to choose Vanderbilt regardless of financial circumstances. Too often, awards from institutions with larger endowments attract talented students, even if they would rather attend Vanderbilt. The Class of 2011 left campus last year with an average debt of $135,800.

“While our tuition is highly competitive with our peer schools, the debt facing most of our graduates is far too steep,” says Dr. Jeff Balser, MD’90, PhD’90, dean of the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for health affairs. “As a recipient of a Vanderbilt medical scholarship myself, I know firsthand the value of these scholarships.”

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