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YoungAlumni 275x275This past spring, the Medical Alumni Association (MAA) made a $100,000 gift to support scholarships for qualified medical students from groups considered underrepresented in medicine (URiM). According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, these include “those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.” The MAA’s gift was matched by the School of Medicine Dean’s Office, a sign of the important role diversity plays in fulfilling the school’s missions.

As part of their URiM efforts, the MAA also formed a URiM task force in partnership with the School of Medicine. The task force’s goal is to develop a culturally competent, inclusive, and diverse health care workforce to help eliminate health disparities in Alabama. This multipronged effort includes improving recruitment for outstanding URiM medical students, strengthening mentorship for those students, and increasing scholarships to recruit the most talented URiM students.

The task force’s URiM Scholarship Committee is co-chaired by Pink Folmar Jr., M.D. ’72, and Richard deShazo, M.D. ’71. Folmar is a longtime supporter of the School of Medicine; in 2016 he and his wife established the Pink L. and Miriam R. Folmar Endowed Medical Scholarship, which supports third and fourth-year students who wish to pursue careers in primary care.

deShazo has a long commitment to reducing health care disparities, even editing a 2018 book on the subject, “The Racial Divide in American Medicine: Black Physicians and the Struggle for Justice in Healthcare.” In 2020, he and his wife Gloria went a step further by making a gift to establish a scholarship for URiM students at UAB, inspired by Folmar’s example. The goal, deShazo says, is to increase the number of URiM students who attend UAB for medical training, with the hope that many of them will remain in Alabama when they start their practice.

“UAB has been losing talented, URiM students from Alabama to Ivy League medical schools because those schools offered more full scholarships, and many of those students never come back to Alabama,” deShazo says. “We need to keep more of our medical students in Alabama and help address health disparities, particularly in rural areas.”

This is an important time for such an effort, deShazo says, because of the current transition to more of a team approach in health care. “Doctors are working with nurse practitioners and physician assistants and other health professionals in teams, which is going to provide a pathway to address rural health problems,” deShazo says. “But right now we don’t have enough doctors to lead those teams, because our state has among the lowest ratio of doctors to patients. We have an opportunity that we’re going to miss if we don’t put more doctors into rural areas.”

The deShazos’ scholarship gift includes an estate gift. deShazo says he wanted to structure the gift that way because increasing the number of URiM students at UAB will not happen overnight. “We’re currently donating our RMD (required minimum distribution) residuals, and then we’re adding a gift at the time of death to make sure that the scholarship is completed. That is the easiest way for people who don’t have a huge pile of money sitting around somewhere to do these types of gifts.”

To learn more about supporting URiM scholarships, and the 1:1 gift match by the Dean’s Office through September 30, 2021, contact Erica Hollins at 205-996-6839 or ehollins@uab.edu.Cary Estes