August 14, 2015

Khodadadi awarded inaugural Sara Crews Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholarship

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Finley Scholarship Ryan KhodadadiRyan KhodadadiRyan B. Khodadadi, Class of 2017, has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Sara Crews Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholarship. The scholarship, which supports students who demonstrate exceptional academic and leadership abilities, includes full tuition for the third year of medical school and is renewable for the fourth year.

At the School of Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony for incoming students on Sunday, August 16, Khodadadi received a new white coat with special insignia identifying him as the Sara Crews Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholar.

“It’s a huge honor to be named the first Finley Scholarship recipient,” he said. “I read about Dr. Finley’s contributions to genetics, and she had such an accomplished career, as did her husband, Dr. Wayne Finley. She was definitely in the forefront of her field, so I can see why they wanted to acknowledge leadership qualities with the scholarship.

“Having been involved as a student representative on the medical education committee at UAB for the past two years, it’s been gratifying to support issues and spearhead discussions about student concerns,” he added. “I’ve learned a lot about my classmates, and it feels good to know that they trust and believe in me. It’s been a great experience, and it’s rewarding to have something like this scholarship come out of it.”

“The selection committee had the difficult task of choosing our first recipient from many impressive candidates, but we all agreed that Ryan deserves the honor,” said Sara J. Finley, daughter of Sara Crews and Wayne Finley, who presented Khodadadi with his new white coat. “He has an exemplary record of academics and service, and he displayed leadership, candor and a sense of humor in his interview. We believe he is an outstanding choice for the scholarship, and I am confident my mother would have been as impressed with Ryan as we all are.”

“Ryan’s selection as the first recipient of the Sara Crews Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholarship is a significant honor, and is a reflection of his academic achievement and his commitment to leadership and service,” said Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president for medicine and dean of the School of Medicine. “We will continue to expect great things from him in the future, so that he will make a difference in the lives of his classmates, the School and his future patients.”

Born and raised in Auburn, where his father is a professor in the mechanical engineering department at Auburn University, Khodadadi became interested in medicine while studying biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University. “I was going to be a biomedical engineer, but getting involved in research and spending time in the medical center there made me more in tune with the other side of things, how the patients use the devices,” he said. “During my junior year, I realized that medicine might be a better calling for me.” 

finley scholarship patch final sizedKhodadadi received a new white coat with special insignia (shown above) identifying him as the Sara Crews Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholar.Khodadadi graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2013. Since enrolling at the UAB School of Medicine, he has distinguished himself both academically and as a leader among his peers. The summer before his first year of medical school, Khodadadi completed an internship studying the role of myristoylated alanine-rich C-kinase substrate in glioblastoma multiforme in the lab of Christopher D. Willey, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Khodadadi continued this research during another summer internship in 2014.

He currently serves as a School of Medicine admissions ambassador, is a member of the School of Medicine Medical Education Committee, and serves on the Research Committee and Health Screening Committee for Equal Access Birmingham, the student-run health clinic for underserved populations in Birmingham. He is a member of the American Physician-Scientists Association UAB Chapter and the Cancer/Oncology Student Interest Group.

Khodadadi says he is most looking forward to the internal medicine rotation this year, and, as for his future plans, he thinks his family background in academia might steer him toward a career in academic medicine. “Some of the research I’ve done and the people I’ve shadowed as an undergraduate and in medical school have been involved in oncology, so I think hematology/oncology is kind of where I’m heading right now,” he said. “After medical school, with my dad being involved with the university for so long, I could see myself being in academic medicine. I like the idea of being able to practice medicine and do research at the same time. I also think I may want to teach at some point, so I think all those things add up to some sort of academic career.”

Established in October 2014 by her family, the Sara Crews Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholarship honors the legacy of a pioneer in medical genetics and a beloved faculty member and student mentor. The goal of the scholarship is to recognize and support students who demonstrate exceptional academic and leadership abilities.

Sara C and Wayne Finley 2 Sara Crews Finley, M.D., and Wayne H. Finley, M.D., Ph.D.Dr. Finley is remembered as a pioneer in medical genetics at UAB. Along with her husband, Wayne H. Finley, M.D., Ph.D., she co-founded the first medical genetics program in the southeastern United States, and was co-director of the Laboratory of Medical Genetics at UAB for more than 30 years. In recognition of their collective contributions, an endowed chair in medical genetics and the conference center at UAB’s Hugh Kaul Genetics Building bear their names.

A second Finley Leadership Scholarship will be awarded to a rising third-year medical student in 2016, and thereafter the School will be home to two Finley Scholars at any given time. According to Sara J. Finley, an endowed scholarship to recognize leadership among medical students is the ideal way to honor her mother’s values and passions.

“My mother relished her time teaching, advising and mentoring UAB medical students,” she said. “Now that we have seen our first applicant pool and selected Ryan as our first scholarship recipient, we know without a doubt that we chose the best path to honor her. She would be very proud to have such a prestigious award established in her name.”