Skip to main content

Impact Story: Diversity in Medicine Scholarship Fund

Berkley Davis, Class of 2020 and Javier Suarez, ’19 MD

“I applaud and deeply thank the Class of 2019 for the passion and foresight expressed in launching a Feinberg School of Medicine Diversity in Medicine Scholarship. We hope this effort is one of many. This initiative reflects our school-wide commitment to grow diversity and create a culture that champions mutual respect and inclusion. This scholarship, focused on incoming students who will enhance diversity in the field of medicine, will help us attract individuals poised to become new leaders and innovators. This goal is urgent as we respond to rapidly changing population demographics and seek to train healthcare providers and biomedical scientists to serve the nation’s growing diverse population. I am inspired by the students’ readiness to take on this challenge. It was Margaret Mead who said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ Kudos to the Class of 2019.”
—Clyde Yancy, MD, MSc, Vice Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Chief, Division of Medicine-Cardiology, Magerstadt Professor in Medicine-Cardiology and Medical Social Sciences, and member of the Northwestern University Leadership Circle.

It didn’t take long for the Class of 2019 to pay it forward. By harnessing the power of ‘crowd funding,’ these new MDs established the Diversity in Medicine Scholarship as a class gift to their alma mater. Dr. Javier Suarez and M4 medical student Berkley Davis spearheaded the initiative in early 2019 after the idea took off through a Facebook conversation among classmates. The scholarship will support incoming medical students who belong to at least one traditionally underrepresented minority group in the field of medicine. The aim is to promote the diversity of identities and life experiences—from low socio-economic status to non-traditional family situations—of medical students. The scholarship also includes a unique mentorship component for the recipient.

Q & A with Dr. Javier Suarez and Berkley Davis

Berkley and Javier, you led the charge with your class to create the scholarship. What was your inspiration and what was your goal?

Berkley: I grew up in rural Virginia, where my dad worked in a factory and kids around me didn’t talk about becoming doctors. While I had been in different environments, such as the US Air Force for five years, the transition to Feinberg was tough. I wanted to help other students from underrepresented minority backgrounds to thrive at Northwestern.

Javier: Diversity goes beyond race. Our goal is also to support diversity of backgrounds and encourage applicants who may come from challenging socioeconomic circumstances but who have a wealth of experiences to come to Feinberg and help enrich the school.

Dr. Clyde Yancy, left, with Dr. Suarez at the May 2019 Honors Day ceremony.

Where does the mentorship piece fit in?

Javier: Coming from a background not typically represented in the majority of medical students, you may feel out of place and like you don’t belong. Our plan is to provide a mentor from our class, someone who is not too far removed from medical school themselves, for the scholarship recipient to turn to for guidance.

Berkley: The idea is to truly invest in this individual by helping them connect to research and clinical mentors, laying the framework for future success in medical education, specialty training, and beyond.

Why is financial aid critical for medical students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups?

Javier: The debt load of medical school is daunting—for a lot of people. But for those who come from underrepresented and/or low-income groups, the financial commitment may scare them off entirely from pursuing a career in medicine. Scholarship funding helps relieve students of financial stress and, at the same time, will help Feinberg attract awesome applicants who may not otherwise have applied.

Berkley: Underrepresented minority groups often already face financial challenges without adding medical school to the mix. Scholarships make the seemingly impossible possible for many students.

This story was published in the Fall 2019 edition of the Nathan Smith Davis Impact Stories, a publication that highlights leadership donors to various areas of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Read the whole issue here.

What would you like share with supporters of this scholarship?

Berkley: Thank you for helping us to close the gap for medical students from underrepresented minority groups. You are ensuring that Feinberg remains an inclusive environment for everyone.

Javier: We know that you have many causes deserving of your financial investment. Your commitment means a lot to the Class of 2019 and our efforts to increase diversity at Feinberg. We are grateful.