June 19, 2014

Phillips scholarship helps students fund their dreams of becoming doctors

Written by
Doris Wayman-11Doris Sturgis Phillips, M.D.Decades before Mingchun Liu entered the School of Medicine, Doris Sturgis Phillips, M.D., helped to pave the way for her. Phillips was one of only four women admitted to the Class of 1950, and she immediately faced a challenge familiar to many students today: finding the funds to support her goal of becoming a physician.

Phillips secured a loan that enabled her to attend medical school. “Practicing medicine has been a rewarding and fulfilling career for me,” she says, reflecting upon her 35 years as a private-practice pediatric allergist in the Birmingham area.

She also made her own investment in the next generation of physicians, establishing a need-based scholarship at the School of Medicine to help other struggling Alabama students. “Because I personally needed financial support when I started medical school, I know there are potential students who may need assistance,” Phillips says.

First-year student Liu is the first recipient of the Doris Sturgis Phillips Scholarship in Medicine. She says she dreamed of becoming a doctor when she was a young girl in China’s Shandong Province. “My first memories of medicine were when my maternal grandfather had a stroke and was hospitalized. I remember visiting him and bringing him food,” she recalls. “I was fascinated with physicians because they help other people.”

After immigrating to the United States with her parents at age 10, Liu faced the difficulty of adapting to American customs. But she dedicated herself to her studies and soon became fluent in English. She says she “fell in love with the medical profession” when she volunteered at UAB and Children’s hospitals as a Vestavia Hills High School student. Liu eventually won a coveted spot in UAB’s Early Medical School Acceptance Program, which provides an enriched undergraduate experience that prepares students to attend medical school. Last spring, she graduated from UAB with a degree in molecular biology.

Mingchun Liu-1Mingchun LiuLike Phillips before her, Liu knew she would need financial assistance in order to complete her medical training. The need-based Doris Sturgis Phillips Scholarship pays full tuition for all four years of medical school, enabling Liu to begin her studies—one of 79 women in the Class of 2017.

“It was definitely wonderful to receive this scholarship,” Liu says. “I was able to send Dr. Phillips a note and short video expressing my sincere gratitude for her generosity. Now I look forward to meeting her and personally telling her how thankful I am.”

Phillips adds that she is “so pleased to assist Mingchun as she begins her medical education.”