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Feinberg Salutes Donors and Student Scholars at Annual Luncheon


April 25, 2024

Scholarship donors and medical students gathered on Saturday, April 20, for the annual Commitment to Scholarships luncheon celebrating this special investment in the lives and careers of future physicians.

More than 240 alumni, friends, and scholars of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine attended the lunch and reception held at The Peninsula Chicago Hotel.

“Scholarship awards help to alleviate our students’ financial burden, while also helping to relieve the stress that accompanies the pursuit of a medical education at Feinberg,” said Marianne Green, MD, vice dean for Education and the Raymond H. Curry, MD, Professor and chair of Medical Education. “As higher education debt continues to rise, students are increasingly making choices about where they will pursue their MD education based on scholarship dollars, and we risk losing students like the exceptional ones you will hear from today to schools who are offering more. That is why we cannot thank our generous donors enough.”

Attendees heard from Darren Wethers, ’88 MD, of Anthem, Arizona, who has donated to numerous Feinberg initiatives over the last 30 years, including the Feinberg Promise Scholarship (formerly called the Diversity in Medicine Scholarship). He also serves as a volunteer Feinberg liaison to alumni in Arizona and is president-elect for the Medical Alumni Association Board of Directors for which he also serves as co-chair of the Inclusion and Allyship Committee.

“I first came to this campus 40 years ago, fresh out of Morehouse College, and fresh out of money, too,” Dr. Wethers quipped.

He went on to attend the medical school with financial support from a four-year Illinois Public Health grant, which required recipients to practice in an underserved area for one year for each year of support. The grants did not cover all his medical school expenses, he said, but they substantially relieved his burden of debt.

“Students, you help us see our dreams for the future come to life. You inspire us to dream bigger and dare more boldly because you do,” Dr. Wethers said. “Donors, you are the lifeblood of this institution. You are dream granters and sustainers. Through you, others take wings and soar.”

Today, Feinberg’s scholarship endowment amounts to $251.2 million through outright and estate gifts, with 66% of medical students receiving some level of financial aid. Scholarships remain a top priority for the medical school, with the goal of one day providing tuition support to all medical students who need it. This would require more than tripling the current endowment. Now more than ever, Dr. Green said, gifts of any size matter.

Scholars Share Journeys to Medical School

Rolando Casas Fuentes, Class of 1987 Scholar

Rolando Casas Fuentes, the Class of 1987 Scholar, shared his inspiring story and gratitude with luncheon attendees.

The first-year medical student was born in Cuba, immigrated to the US at age 13, and majored in biology at Florida International University. During his time as an undergraduate, he served as a volunteer with Mind & Melody, a program through which he played the guitar for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and witnessed the transformative power of music in their lives. He also spent two years as a research assistant in Dr. Kim Tieu’s Parkinson’s disease laboratory.

At Feinberg, Mr. Casas Fuentes works with a plastic surgery research lab through which he researches and raises awareness of racial disparities in breast reconstruction outcomes for breast cancer patients. He also serves as the co-president of the Latino Medical Student Association chapter.

“As I stand before you, I am reminded of the countless individuals who have shaped my journey—from my parents in Cuba to the mentors and peers I have met along the way,” he said. “Your generosity and belief in us as future medical professionals provide not just the means to pursue our education but also a profound sense of responsibility to carry forward the legacy of compassion, innovation, and excellence that defines Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.”

Carolina Sierra, Walter B. and Arlene B. Wildstein Scholar

Carolina Sierra, the Walter B. and Arlene B. Wildstein Scholar and a first-year medical student, told luncheon attendees that her tuition support meant the world to her and her parents, who left Medellin, Colombia, for Montana when she was three years old to pursue better educational opportunities for her and her brother. She said her mother and father worked tirelessly—in the face of language, cultural, and educational barriers—to provide for them.

Ms. Sierra earned her BA in Neuroscience and Italian Studies at Duke University with a minor in Chemistry. Upon graduating in 2021, Ms. Sierra worked as a clinical research coordinator in the Psychiatry Department at the Duke University School of Medicine, where she supported a variety of projects including industry-sponsored trials for ADHD interventions, studies exploring the epigenetic effects of drug use on offspring development, and community-based, qualitative research aimed at addressing heath disparities in Black and Hispanic adolescents.

At Feinberg, she is pursuing a dual MD/MPH degree. She said she hopes to use her combined degree to address health disparities and work towards creating equitable and accessible healthcare.

“I thank you not just for your donations, but I thank you for setting an example to us all—examples of how kindness, even to strangers you may not know, can go a long way,” Ms. Sierra said.

Donors Honored for Earnest Support

In the spirit of a Feinberg tradition begun in 2017, two exemplary donors were honored with Crystal Apple Awards for their dedication to scholarships.

Doug Carr, Crystal Apple Awardee

The first awardee was Doug Carr, ’78 MD, of Billings, Montana, an internal medicine physician and healthcare leader, past president of the Medical Alumni Association Board, and member of 18 years, and outdoors enthusiast. Dr. Carr was a leader and champion in the establishment of the Class of 1978 Scholarship and is a longtime donor to scholarships, including the MD Endowed Scholarship, Feinberg Promise Scholarship, and grateful patient scholarship. He and his wife, Karla, have also documented a legacy estate gift for scholarships.

Maria Stare, wife of the late Fredrick A. Stare, PhD, Crystal Apple Awardee

Fredrick Stare, '65 PhD, passed away in 2021 but was posthumously awarded a Crystal Apple that was accepted by his wife, Maria. Last fall, Maria Stare established a new scholarship, the Fredrick A. Stare Endowed Scholarship, to honor his memory.

Dr. Stare earned his MA and PhD degrees in Psychology from Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 1964 and 1965, respectively. He became acquainted with the medical school through his support of the Sean D. O’Connor, MD Scholarship, which honors beloved Northwestern internist Dr. Sean O’Connor.

Learn more about supporting scholarships at Feinberg.

For more information, please contact Larry Kuhn at or 312-503-1717.

Access photos from the event