With a generous gift of $1.1 million, philanthropist Ann Bedell Hunt has established The Bedell Family Endowed Medical Scholarship at University of California San Diego School of Medicine in memory of her father, Omar Jaspering, and in honor of Simerjot K. Jassal, MD, a primary care physician at VA San Diego Healthcare System and director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at UC San Diego School of Medicine.
This scholarship is intended to help ensure that the cost of attendance does not prevent the most promising and deserving medical students from choosing UC San Diego School of Medicine.
“I am so pleased to have the opportunity to recognize Dr. Jassal, who provided excellent care to my father, Omar Jaspering, for many years before his death at age 102,” Hunt said, “as well as open more doors for would-be doctors, no matter their backgrounds, who might not otherwise get the opportunity to attend medical school.” Hunt is based in Tucson, Ariz.
“It was a genuine privilege to be Mr. Jaspering’s physician,” Jassal said. “As physicians, we have this amazing, unique opportunity to be a part of the lives of our patients in an important and meaningful way. I believe it’s very important that our health care providers represent the diverse patient populations we serve, so we can provide the best care possible. It’s my hope that this incredibly generous scholarship will help to remove financial barriers to pursuing medical education, improve the diversity of our future doctors, and ultimately help promote health equity for our patients.”
Financial cost is a well-documented hurdle to becoming a doctor, particularly among racial/ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, as of 2018, only approximately 6 percent of practicing physicians in the United States are Hispanic, 5 percent are Black and 0.3 percent are Alaska Native or American Indian.
“Because the best minds come from all kinds of backgrounds, many of our medical students rely on scholarship support to open the door to their UC San Diego education,” said Steven R. Garfin, MD, interim dean of UC San Diego School of Medicine.
“These students should not have to choose a place they can afford in lieu of the place they belong. With scholarships, we preserve a proud tradition of need-blind admissions, ensuring that the world’s best and brightest students can make UC San Diego their home — and their springboard — regardless of their financial circumstances. We are very grateful to Ms. Hunt for helping us lift financial barriers for our students.”
UC San Diego School of Medicine faculty, staff and students are committed to enhancing and recognizing the importance of equity, diversity, inclusion and health disparities through scholarship, curricular changes and community engagement.
“Diversity in health care starts in medical school,” said Kama Guluma, MD, associate dean for admissions and student affairs at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Diversity of thought, ideas and lived experience significantly enriches the academic experience and improves the depth and breadth of the experience for all students. Diversity in health care is about understanding the mindset and needs of a patient within a larger context of culture, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and socioeconomic realities.”
Over the past several years, school leaders and administrators have been working to diversify the student community and faculty, in part through holistic admissions and diversifying admissions and hiring committees, and reduce health disparities.
Since 1997, medical students have helped provide free care to underserved communities in San Diego through the Student-Run Free Clinic. The Program in Medical Education – Health Equity is a special track in which medical students receive training and opportunities to become health equity leaders. More recently, medical students helped launch community-based electives that provide training in tribal health care, blood pressure testing in barbershops and health screenings at Pacific Islander festivals.
“But there is clearly more work to do and additional resources make a significant impact,” Garfin said. “This year, in addition to lowering financial barriers, our work includes re-examining our curricula to further improve how we present race and disparities, implementing new health equity and social justice course content, developing a Racism in Medicine course, recruiting new faculty with interests in health equity and creating new leadership positions dedicated to anti-racism.”