Sydney Mohr, MS3, was recently awarded the 2019 Sara Crews Finley, M.D., Leadership Scholarship, which provides full tuition for the third year of medical school and is renewable for the fourth year. The scholarship is awarded annually to a student who has excelled in academics, service and leadership. Mohr will be recognized officially at the School of Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony Aug. 18, where she will also receive a new white coat with special insignia identifying her as the Sara Crews Finley, M.D., Leadership Scholar.
“We are so pleased to honor Sydney as this year’s recipient of the Sara Crews Finley, M.D., Leadership Scholarship,” said Sara J. Finley, daughter of Sara Crews Finley, M.D., and Wayne H. Finley, M.D., Ph.D. “Sydney has stellar academic credentials, and she has shown her commitment to leadership and service through her varied extracurricular activities during both college and medical school. Her passion for patient care is evident and has been informed by her own experiences confronting a serious family illness.”
For Mohr, a Suwanee, Georgia, native, her passion for medicine began at an early age. “In middle school, I had a science teacher who chose a few kids to learn labs before everyone else and then teach them to the class,” Mohr said. “That’s when I first became interested in the sciences.”
In Mohr’s first month of her undergraduate education at the University of Georgia, life-changing news turned her interest in science into a love for medicine. “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Mohr said. “Seeing how the doctors impacted her life pushed me even more in the direction of medicine.”
Mohr shadowed physicians and went on a medical relief trip to the Dominican Republic with the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. “We shadowed doctors at the local hospital, and taught clinics for diabetes and nutrition education,” Mohr said. “Those experiences clearly showed me that medicine was in my future.”
Mohr said she is grateful to receive this scholarship because it recognizes someone who put service to her patients and community first. “It’s a huge honor, probably the biggest honor of my life, to receive this scholarship in Dr. Sara Crews Finley’s name because she was such a pioneer for women in the medical field,” Mohr said. “If I could be half the doctor she was, I would be content.”
In her time at UAB, Mohr has already gained research and leadership experience. She spent her first summer in medical school doing research in the pediatrics emergency room. She worked on a study that looked at how medications, specifically opioids, are stored in homes. “We conducted surveys where we asked children’s guardians how they stored their medications,” Mohr said. “It was interesting to learn that some people didn’t know what the opioid crisis was.”
Since she came to UAB, Mohr has served as a Learning Community representative, planning social events for her Learning Community and keeping up with the students. She has also helped with admissions, something she hopes to continue throughout her time at UAB.
“Dr. Finley was really involved in admissions, and that’s something that I’ve been passionate about since I came here,” said Mohr, who helped with multiple mini interviews her first year, gave tours to interviewees in her second year, and will serve on the admissions committee next year. “After seeing how awesome all the people in my class are, I’ve wanted to help build that for future incoming classes.”
Although she decided to pursue medicine early on, Mohr said she is still contemplating which specialty to pursue. “No one from my family is in the medical field, so I will choose my own path,” she noted. “I’m really excited for these next two years of rotations to experience it all and then decide what I want to do.”
One thing Mohr is certain of is that she wants to prioritize serving the underserved. While at the University of Georgia, Mohr volunteered at the Mercy Health Center, a clinic that provides free health care services to the uninsured in the Athens area. “It was awesome to connect with people in the Athens community because it allowed me to help many people who are struggling,” Mohr said. “I saw firsthand how much of a medical disparity there was within one community.”
Mercy Health Center can only serve a limited number of patients, leaving many without care. “There are so many people with so many needs, but we could only accept a limited number of new patients a week,” Mohr said. “It was difficult to see a lot of people not receiving the health care they needed. Because of this experience, it has become a priority to help people who can’t get help otherwise throughout the rest of my medical career.”
During her time at UAB, Mohr has worked with the underserved community in Birmingham. She has volunteered at Equal Access Birmingham and the M-POWER Ministries Health Center, two clinics that provide health care to those without access to insurance.
She is thankful for this scholarship because it allows her to continue her community outreach without having to worry about the heavy burden of paying for medical school. “I chose to come to UAB because I really loved the school, the research and clinical opportunities, and I thought the people were extremely nice and welcoming,” Mohr said. “At the same time, I knew that I was going to have to pay out-of-state tuition. This scholarship really changes my life.”
For Mohr, worrying less about paying off student loans means being able to focus on what she really wants to practice. “Although I try not to think about it on a daily basis, I was extremely concerned about how I would eventually pay off my loans,” said Mohr. “When I’m trying to decide on a specialty, I have the freedom now to choose something that I’m really passionate about instead of making a decision based on a more financially stable option.”
Sara Crews Finley, M.D., co-founded the first medical genetics program in the Southeast with her husband, Wayne H. Finley, M.D., Ph.D. and served as co-director of the Laboratory of Medical Genetics at UAB for more than 30 years. Not only does the scholarship honor Finley for her contributions to the field of genetics, but it also recognizes her leadership and service to the community around her.
“When our family first established this scholarship to honor my mother’s legacy, we weren’t sure how the program would evolve,” Sara J. Finley said. “Five years later, we are so proud to know these scholars on a personal level and follow them as they earn their medical degrees and transition into select residency programs. We look forward to welcoming Sydney to this extraordinary group.”