Medical School Pipeline
> From High School to Medical School
A new medical education pipeline has the potential to provide undergraduate and medical school education, internships and fellowship training awards to students from traditionally underrepresented minorities and low-income backgrounds.
Created and supported by the Joan C. Edwards Charitable Foundation, the new pipeline begins with a full-tuition scholarship program for students to earn bachelor’s and medical degrees at Case Western Reserve University. Established with an initial investment of $10 million to $12 million over 10 years, the scholarship will go to one student per year from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Cleveland School of Science and Medicine at John Hay Campus (CSSM), an innovative public high school for motivated, high-achieving students interested in entering science or health-related professions.
“Mrs. Edwards believed deeply in the importance of giving underrepresented minority and low-income students greater opportunities to become physicians and that they, in turn, could provide medical care to underserved populations,” says Thomas M. McDonald, Cleveland distribution director for the Joan C. Edwards Charitable Foundation. The foundation was created by a bequest from the Joan C. Edwards Trust in 2006 at the time of her death. Edwards was a philanthropist and former jazz singer. Her husband, James, who died in 1991, was owner and CEO of the National Mattress Company in Huntington, W.Va., where the couple lived most of their lives.
The foundation considered Cleveland to be an ideal candidate for this program because of the presence of a science and medicine school like CSSM at John Hay Campus and the school’s proximity to nationally ranked Case Western Reserve, the School of Medicine and University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center. It was also drawn to the area because many surrounding Cleveland neighborhoods have been designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As part of the pipeline, members of the Case Western Reserve community and physicians at UH Case Medical Center will provide academic programming and individual mentoring to students at CSSM. This continues a tradition the medical school already has of mentoring these students. For the last several years, via the Robbins Society Bridge Program, School of Medicine students have been providing weekly tutoring sessions to CSSM students.
The physician development portion of the endowment will provide internships, junior faculty and fellowship training awards, and a summer internship program for CSSM students and Case Western Reserve undergraduates who are interested in entering medical school. During the academic year, laboratory-based work-study positions at UH Case Medical Center also will be available to these students.
Another key component of the pipeline program’s initial rollout involves physicians from UH Case Medical Center visiting CSSM students to engage them in innovative educational events collaboratively developed and delivered through UH Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve. Daniel I. Simon, MD, director of the UH Harrington-McLaughlin Heart & Vascular Institute and the Herman K. Hellerstein Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, will be the first to launch the program.
“We are pleased to be part of this extraordinary gift and what it promises to bring to the next generation of physicians who will hopefully serve the same community in which they live and grew up,” says Simon. “By providing these talented young students first-hand experience with our renowned physician researchers, this unique program will truly transform our medical community as well as the students’ lives.”
The foundation hopes the Cleveland pipeline program will be a successful model for others nationwide. “It is the belief of the foundation that the program as modeled here in Cleveland represents a significant step in the evolution of medical education pipelines,” says Brian A. McDonald, the Edwards Foundation’s executive director. “We hope that this model can be applied to other qualifying communities around the country as a way to most intelligently apply available scholarship funding.”
A Family’s Gift Inspires a Scientist’s Efforts
Professor Jerry Silver, PhD, and Leslie Nelson
Leslie Nelson believes a biological cure for spinal cord injuries is out there—and she believes Jerry Silver, PhD, professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, can discover it.
“When we first met, I thought, ‘He’s the one; he’ll find it,’” Nelson says. That first meeting took place 25 years ago, in the aftermath of a family tragedy that makes the nerve regeneration research Silver’s lab pioneers more than just another worthy cause for Nelson, but a personal one as well.
Her mother, Linda Brumagin, established the Brumagin-Nelson Fund for Nerve Regeneration Research in the wake of the 1983 car accident that killed her husband and left Leslie paralyzed. The fund honors Wilson Brumagin Jr.’s memory—and his own connection to the university as a 1959 graduate of the Case Institute of Technology—and, along with Nelson’s additional gifts, supports research to improve the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injuries.
Nelson and Brumagin say Silver’s tenacity and dedication in the lab have always been as impressive as his discoveries. “He just keeps going,” says Brumagin. “After all these years, he’s exactly the same—full of enthusiasm, full of life and fully focused on what he’s doing.”
“I’m grateful that he’s got that kind of spirit,” says Nelson. “Without it, you can’t succeed.”
The Brumagin-Nelson endowment has allowed Silver to forge ahead on his most inspired experiments—ones he describes as high risk, but with high reward—like using light to re-activate nerve cells, which could one day help restore motion and essential functions like bladder control to paralyzed individuals.
For Silver and his team of researchers, the family’s support offers more than consistent financial backing—it provides a deep, personal connection to the work, and a name and face to fight for. That connection inspires everyone in the lab, Silver says. “I’m honored and touched that they have this trust in me,” he says of Nelson and Brumagin. “It makes me want to work even harder.”