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Scholarships Allow Vanderbilt Undergrad to Pursue Career in Medicine

By Jessica Pasley
February 2014

Generous scholarship support allowed John Chen to attend Vanderbilt as both an undergraduate and medical student. Photo by Susan Urmy.

Generous scholarship support allowed John Chen to attend Vanderbilt as both an undergraduate and medical student. Photo by Susan Urmy.

John Chen, a second-year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM), is not sure what type of doctor he will become, but one thing is certain: he will have the chance to follow his heart in selecting his field of study and said he owes that all to Vanderbilt.

As an undergraduate, Chen received the Cornelius Vanderbilt Academic Scholarship, a four-year, full tuition award. As a sophomore, Chen applied to VUSM through an early acceptance program guaranteeing him a spot in the incoming class of 2012. But he had no idea how he would pay for it.

“It was great,” recalled Chen. “But I did have to apply for financial aid. I had no information about the amount of aid I would receive. I am so thankful that Vanderbilt helped me again.”

As one of the recipients of the Drs. Frank Luton and Clifton Greer Scholarship, the 23-year-old will not be saddled with the debt commonly associated with acquiring a graduate degree.

“Financial assistance is so important when enrolling in graduate school,” said Chen. “Because of the long timeline associated with medical school in particular, and then residency and potential fellowships, there is a long period where you are not making enough money to pay back anything on loans.

“Any contribution I receive toward paying for my education today actually amounts to a lot more based on the fact that I would have had to borrow money and pay interest on it.

“And not having a huge debt burden does free up the choices I have for my future. I do not feel pressured to select a career based on my salary. What I choose to do in medicine will be based on my desire.”

Chen’s need-based scholarship was established in 1995 through the estate of Clifton Greer Jr., M.D. ‘51, VU ‘45 in honor of Frank Luton, M.D., ‘27. Luton was a professor of Psychiatry from 1930 to 1964 and served as a neurologist and psychiatrist-in-chief from 1942 to 1956. In recent years, such gifts from alumni and others support the Scholarship Initiative for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, an effort to reduce student debt by growing the scholarship endowment.

Chen grew up experiencing the goodness of others. Born in Shanghai, he was raised by his grandmother while his parents attended graduate school in the United States. He joined them in Troy, Ohio, when he turned 5 years old. He recalled the generosity of the community while his parents juggled school and family responsibilities in a new country.

“Philanthropy and goodwill have played a huge role not just in my education but with my family as well,” Chen said. “Although I am not able to donate a lot right now, I make sure I always give Vanderbilt something.
“It’s important to me to make that donation,” he said. “I have been afforded a lot of opportunities. I want to pass that chance along to others, and I will one day.”

More information about the Scholarship Initiative is available at
vanderbilthealth.com/MDscholarship or by calling (615) 936-0230.

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