Alumni

'I Was In Their Shoes'

Monday, December 1, 2014

By Jane Erikson

It’s been 40 years since Garry D. Strauser, MD, graduated from the UA College of Medicine. But he still remembers how difficult it was to pay for medical school.

“And of course, those struggles pale in comparison to the indebtedness encountered by our current student doctors,” Dr. Strauser said after making a gift to aid a student entering the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Class of 2018.

Dr. Strauser is one of many alumni who responded to the College of Medicine’s request for gifts in support of medical student scholarships, as well as white coats and stethoscopes for incoming students.

“I feel honored to assist in this small way,” Dr. Strauser continued,  “hoping to relieve some stress, while perhaps also lending encouragement to a young person who has dedicated himself or herself to wearing the symbolic white coat of healing."

“I was blessed to practice diagnostic radiology for 35 years, but I recall the excitement I felt when obtaining my own stethoscope and beginning to build the foundation to becoming a physician. I was delighted to receive a nice thank-you note from the young man who will be providing health care to a new generation, and appreciated gaining a closer connection with someone who will ‘take the baton’ and run with it. I wish him the very best as he continues to serve others!”

John Swain, MD, Class of 1985, received scholarship support all through medical school. “It helped me get through without too much student debt,” he said. “Of course, tuition then was less than $2,000 a year."

Dr. Swain, now retired from his ob-gyn practice, also likes the idea of giving incoming students a white coat and stethoscope at the annual White Coat Ceremony – a College of Medicine tradition since 1995.

“It would have been nice to get a scope and coat, “ he said. “I think it would have given me more confidence that I could complete this journey. So I thought this was something that somebody could use. And it just made me feel good to do it.”

Violet Siwik, MD, Class of 1991, College of Medicine assistant dean for student affairs, and assistant professor of Family and Community Medicine, also made a gift on behalf of new students.

“My reason for wanting to help a student stems from the fact that many students entering the UA College of Medicine are from diverse backgrounds and have literally and figuratively traveled a long road to arrive in our institution,” she said. “They are so enthusiastic about learning the intricacies of becoming a future physician. I was in their shoes many years ago, and hope to provide them a symbolic gesture that will aid them in serving their patients and communities.” 

Scott Klewer, MD, Class of 1991, is division chief of pediatric cardiology, and a professor of pediatrics at the UA. He made a private donation of one of his first stethoscopes to a student who means a lot to him: his son Jake, now a member of the Class of 2018.

Dr. Klewer made an additional gift this year to help another incoming student.

“To me as a cardiologist, the stethoscope is an essential piece of equipment that I rely upon each and every day in the hospital and clinics, and I think that most doctors recall their first "real" stethoscope fondly. In addition to the stethoscope's symbolism, possessing a high quality stethoscope is incredibly helpful for pre-clinical medical students working to develop their physical exam skills. Therefore, the College of Medicine Alumni Affairs program to provide a stethoscope to each first-year medical student resonated with me when the invitation to participate arrived in the mail."

“This was further reinforced by a very heartfelt thank-you note from the recipient of the donation a few weeks later.  This is an excellent program that provides the opportunity for College of Medicine alumni to meaningfully participate and support the College of Medicine.”  

Cyenthia Koehler, MD, Class of 1993, a 1998 pathology residency graduate, and now chief of pathology at Arrowhead Hospital in Glendale, Ariz., says it's "important for everyone to help support our medical students as they begin their training.  Paying it forward will eventually lead to future physicians who do likewise. It has been my experience that physicians are especially generous in this regard, and this can be a vital first step in instilling our future doctors with this concept. One special way to help these future physicians is by donating stethoscopes."

"Giving a student a stethoscope is important, because it's something that a person will use to help others, and it becomes a constant reminder that someone cared enough to donate to them. I still have my stethoscope from medical school and I think the students we give these stethoscopes to will always remember that somebody donated money to help them out. I think it helps build self esteem when someone other than your family shows you that you are worth their investment."

"I received thank-you notes from the students who were given stethoscopes with the money I donated. When I showed the thank-you notes to the doctors I work with, their faces lit up."

"It was really nice for the students to take the time to thank us, and include a picture of themselves. It's great to see the faces of our future doctors."

Photo: Kahlin Leuzinger, Class of 2018 and Family