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Alumni

Alumni

Lifting Up a New Generation of Medical Students and Trainees

At the wilmer eye institute, there is one room that is an essential part of every resident’s experience: the resident lounge. With a row of lockers, a few couches and five computers, the space serves as a landing pad for residents, recalls Parag Parekh, an ophthalmology resident at Wilmer from 2004 to 2007. Parekh would head to the lounge in the early morning for coffee before rounds or to meet with fellow residents to talk about their Grand Rounds presentations. “It is such an important and central place in the life of a resident,” says Parekh, a cataract, LASIK, cornea and glaucoma surgeon, and the founder of ClearView Eye Consultants in central Pennsylvania.

So last March, when he received a letter asking alumni to support a new space called the Wilmer Residents Resource Center, which will replace the old lounge, Parekh enthusiastically contributed to the project. He is one of nine alumni donors whose collection of gifts will make possible the new resource center. With 16 workstations — enough for each resident to have his or her own space — it will serve as an office as well as a meeting place.

“Residency is a really hard and challenging time, and you need an area to decompress, talk to other residents about cases, and share ideas and discuss research,” says Divya Srikumaran, vice chair of education at Wilmer. “Having a nice space makes such a big difference for a trainee in the day to day.”  

Parekh was motivated to support the project, which is in the early planning stages, because he had such a pivotal experience as a resident. “For every kind of surgery I do now, I did my first one at Wilmer,” he says. “I would never trade my experience there. It was amazing.”

A single donor can have a similar impact on medical students and trainees by establishing an endowment fund. As a medical student at Johns Hopkins, John Brantigan ’70 received a scholarship to work in the lab of renowned cardiac surgeon Vince Gott during the summers, which meant he could focus on his research without taking on an outside job to pay for his education.

In Gott’s lab, Brantigan was introduced to using carbon-based materials for implants. Some years later, after serving as a flight surgeon and chief of reconstructive surgery at Creighton University in Nebraska, Brantigan developed a family of innovative implants for spinal surgery. The implants are made with a carbon fiber reinforced polymer, an aerospace material that cannot be broken down by chemicals or environmental exposure, and have been copied by around 100 companies and are widely used today. “If you have an idea that challenges preconceived ideas, you can come up with new solutions,” he says. “I don’t think I would have had that perspective without Hopkins.”

Once Brantigan made his first significant income from the implants, he established the Brantigan Clinical Research Fund, which mainly supports medical students who are presenting their work at national meetings. “If the students are able to get to these meetings and participate at a young age, then I think that is a rewarding part of medical education,” says Brantigan.

Notes one of his beneficiaries, Stephanie Juarez: “It is a rare opportunity for a first-year medical student to be able to travel to a conference, let alone present a case report, so I truly appreciate the donation that allowed me to share my intellectual work and network with the fellow medical community.”

Whether donors come together to support a large project or choose to start an endowment fund on their own, each gift is significant and meaningful to medical students and trainees. “Every little bit makes their lives better in some way,” Srikumaran says.

For information on making a gift, call 410-361-6548 or email: philanthropy@jhmi.edu

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