ScholarshipDinnerJohn Ahn (MS2) and scholarship donor Jamie French at the 2017 School of Medicine Scholarship Dinner.On October 27, the UAB School of Medicine celebrated the 12th Annual Scholarship Dinner, where scholarship donors dined with and got to know the medical students who benefit from their philanthropic investments. Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president and dean for the School of Medicine, welcomed the guests and thanked them for their generous support of the School’s medical students. He shared his personal experience as a medical scholarship recipient and the indelible impression it left on him – both relieving some of the heavy education debt burden and providing a sense of confidence.

Craig Hoesley, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and chair of the Department of Medical Education, then shared some exciting scholarship milestones the School of Medicine achieved this academic year, including:

  • More than $2.9 million in scholarship funds distributed
  • 171 students, nearly a quarter of the entire student body, received scholarships
  • More than $16 million has been raised for medical student scholarships since The Campaign for UAB began in 2008
  • 12 new scholarships have been created since last year’s Scholarship Dinner

Several student scholarship recipients spoke at the event. Among them was William “Blake” Swicord, a first-year medical student from Eclectic, Ala. Swicord talked about growing up in a small town of about 800 residents, the oldest of five children, who was born when his parents were still in high school. He recalled his 13th birthday, when his father was severely injured in a motorcycle accident, and watching the UAB-trained physicians at the hospital care for his father. “I had one pull me aside and tell me they were doing everything they could for my dad, but that right now I needed to be the big brother for all my siblings,” Swicord recounted. He said in that moment he viewed doctors as superheroes, and the impression they made planted the seed for a future in medicine. He also said he hopes to help his younger siblings attend college once he begins practicing—something he would not be able to do if not for the scholarship support he received. He thanked the scholarship donors for “giving me the chance to be that ‘superhero’ to a child going through a hard time,” and directly impacting people like him in “an incredibly special way.”

The School of Medicine’s new associate dean for admissions and enrollment management, Christina Grabowski, Ph.D., shared information about the School of Medicine’s admissions process, including that applications to the school have increased by almost a third in the last five years. For the medical school class entering in 2017, she said, the Admissions Committee received just over 3,800 applications, out of which they selected 456 applicants to interview for an incoming class of 186 students.

“We’re not looking for cookie-cutter students, with a single set of attributes or metrics,” Grabowski said. “We’re looking for a diverse student body that is going to help us meet many missions at the medical school. Students who become leaders in science and innovation. Physicians who deliver world-class patient-centered care. We’re trying to bring in students who will help us address devastating physician shortages in our rural and underserved communities. And we do that with your help. Scholarships make a difference in attracting the students that we hope to graduate for our mission.”

Jamie French, vice-chairman for investments at Dunn Investment Company, also spoke about the scholarship he and his wife established at the School of Medicine, the McLester Family Endowed Scholarship. French is the grandson of James Somerville McLester, M.D., a Tuscaloosa native who was named the first chair of medicine at the Medical College of Alabama when it opened in 1945, and who is highly recognized for his leadership during the transition from a two-year pre-clinical medical school to a four-year medical degree granting institution. “I must say, to the students who have spoken tonight, you provided all the inspiration that would ever be needed to support such a gift,” Mr. French said. “And of course, Dr. McLester’s life was an exemplary life for the practice of medicine, and I hope it will serve as an inspiration for some of you young folks.”

Click here to view an online gallery of photos from the event. Click here to learn more about giving to medical student scholarships, or contact Jessica Brooks Lane at (205) 975-4452 or

Posted November 17, 2017