By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder
The time has come once more to announce the winners of the annual WCI Scholarship Award. We apologize for being a week late with the announcement, but we had nearly 800 applicants, 59 judges, and some new staff members managing the process, so it took us a week longer than expected to select the winners and verify their enrollment. My sincerest apologies to those who have been waiting anxiously to hear about whether they won.
The purposes of this scholarship are to spread financial literacy throughout the professional schools in this country, to directly reduce the indebtedness of a few winners, and to inspire those at every stage of a professional career. It is one of the ways (along with the Financial Educator Award and the WCI Champions Program) that we give back to the community that has given so much to us.
The first order of business is to thank four groups of people without whom this scholarship program would not exist.
- First, we'll thank the applicants. Hard to have a program without you.
- Second, thank you to the volunteer judges. Not only do we here at The White Coat Investor not have the capacity to do the judging ourselves, having you do it instead of us removes bias as much as possible.
- Third, thank you to the WCI staff members who worked on this project, especially our newest hire Megan who was thrown right into the fire.
- Finally, thank you to the sponsors who supported the program. Although WCI donates to the scholarship from its profits, the winners would receive much less money without the sponsors. Thank you for supporting those who support such a good cause.
Platinum Level Contributors ($7,500 or more)
The White Coat Investor, LLC
Larry Keller (Physician Financial Services) – Disability and Life Insurance
Bob Bhayani (Dr Disability Quotes) – Disability and Life Insurances
Splash Financial – Student Loan Refinancing
Laurel Road – Student Loan Refinancing
Credible – Student Loan Refinancing
Gold Level Contributors ($1,000 or more)
Andy Borgia and DK Unger (DI4MDs) – Disability and Life Insurance
Wende Headley (Abacus Wealth Partners) – Financial Advising
Chad Chubb (WealthKeel LLC) – Financial Advising
Jon Appino (Contract Diagnostics) – Contract Review/Negotiation
Pradeep Audho (PKA Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Michael Relvas (MR Insurance) – Disability and Life Insurance
Pattern – Disability and Life Insurance
Scott Nelson Archer (MD Financial Services) – Disability and Life Insurance
Matt Elliott (Pulse Financial Planning) – Financial Advising
Johanna Turner (Fox and Company Wealth Management) – Financial Advising
Josh Mettle (Neo Home Loans) – Physician Mortgage Loans
Kathryn Hanna (Make Your Money Matter) – Personal Finance Workbooks
Thomas Hackett (NW Legacy Law) – Estate Planning
Stephanie Pearson (PearsonRavitz) – Disability and Life Insurance
Rick Warren and Joe Capone (Insuring Income) – Disability and Life Insurance
Provider Solutions & Development – Job Recruitment
This year, we divided the scholarship money we raised into two equal pots. The first pot will be divided equally among the five Grand Prize winners in the “Inspiring Story” category. The second pot will be divided equally among the five Grand Prize winners in the “Financial” category. The total amount raised was $76,703.48, so each of the ten scholarship winners will get a check for $7,671. We had a total of 791 applications this year. Although there were many more entries in the Inspiring Stories category than in the Financial category, it was still very competitive in both categories, given the number of applicants.
Today, we'll be announcing the five Grand Prize winners in the Inspiring Stories category. We've also announced the five Grand Prize winners in the Financial category in a similar post. For each winner, and in no particular order, I'll include an excerpt from their essay and a link to the full post published elsewhere on the site. As has been tradition for several years, the comments after the posts will be turned off. I'd love to figure out a way to let you congratulate the winners while keeping internet trolls from making inappropriate comments about them, but alas, with the internet and technology being what it is, we'll just have to leave the comments off. Please congratulate the winners if you know them in real life.
The Grand Prize Winning Essays
Orion Rushin, University of Louisville School of Medicine
My grandmother became my guardian when my father fell victim to the prison system, leaving me to be raised in a single parent household. Due to a lack of income, my mother thrust herself into her work as a beautician. When my father left, I was a 3-year-old toddler, but when he returned, I was an 11-year-old pre-teen. As a toddler I had a vague idea of my dad. I knew what he looked like, how he talked, and who he was to me, but I did not grasp the concept of what a father was. I knew that I did not have one but needed one.
During his seven-year absence, I found myself in tears while longing for my father. I saw him occasionally, but in an unideal environment. I can recall waking on Saturday mornings to travel to visit my father. My mom would bring her clear purse filled with quarters as we rode for hours or crossed state lines to places like Georgia. As a child, this felt like a vacation to me. I would be filled with joy and excitement to go to a penitentiary . . . My father and I missed the “Father and Daughter dances” and “Doughnuts with Dad.” However, absent fathers are a familiar experience within the Black community. As I would eat breakfast in the cafeteria on the morning of “Doughnuts with Dad,” I scanned the room and found very few fathers. In addition, many of my classmates were also fatherless due to them being incarcerated, deceased, or simply absent.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Orion!
Kayli Hall, Texas A&M College of Medicine
She was only 16 years old when she found herself suddenly homeless. How did it come to this? Her back was against the wall—both literally and figuratively—as she sat inside her school at a loss for what to do. A few months prior, my mom had resolved to stay in Glen Rose, Texas to finish up high school while my grandmother moved on to her next job in another state. Since then my mom had been living on her own in a trailer, but now the landowner had locked her out. All her possessions, the few she had managed to preserve during the numerous moves of her childhood, were beyond her reach. Where would she stay? She had no family nearby, no one she could call. But a friend listened to her plight and readily offered a solution.
“You can stay with me and my dad.”
But there was a complication, at least from my mom’s point of view. Would her friend’s father be ready to show such kindness to a stranger he had never met before? Where would she go if he turned her away? But she never had to answer this question, because she was welcomed with open arms. Day by day she discovered that she had not only gained a home with a room of her own and a place at the table, but also a new family. Her friend’s father became a dad to her…
My grandpa taught me what it means to be ready to open our hearts and homes to those in need. His choice to be family not only meant the world to my mom, but also altered the very trajectory of her life and consequently the lives of my siblings and me. Having received this gift, I want to give it to others as well. My dream is to adopt children and serve refugees as a physician because I know the importance of having a home and a family.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Kayli!
Alessandra LaJeunesse, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Saffron is valuable instead of expensive because I buy it as an investment. I invest in those loved ones who I cook for. I invest in their continued health, strength, and future. This is a different kind of investment than The White Coat Investor usually talks about. So, let me tell you about my investment portfolio.
Growing up, my brother spoke different languages; ones only he understood. He transformed into different caricatures: the stoic, the goof, the violent one, the depressive one, and somewhere was the one I had known when we were younger. He was artistic, tall, exact, and sensitive. He had multiple personas, seizures, and a collection of symptoms. The ingredient he was missing was a medication to balance out his overabundance of autoimmune antibodies. After more than a decade of being misunderstood, his new neurologist had found the answer, had found his saffron. His missing ingredient was the proper diagnosis paired with the proper treatment. They tried to balance out my brother by giving him high-dose steroids used as immunosuppressants. His recovery was the closest thing to magic I knew at the time . . .
Just like how some grocery stores may not carry saffron because of its cost and the lower probability of receiving regular shipments, I believe too that healthcare professionals treating the nexus between mental health and neurological health is rare and often out of stock. Many times a patient has to navigate the health system just like an avid shopper might have to drive to four different grocery stores. Many times they have suffered through years of illness before a diagnosis or a treatment can be found. Many times patients are investing in their doctor as one would invest in their family. Many times I see bits and pieces of my family in my patients. And all the time, I want to protect my family and my patients. Medicine is how I plan to invest in my ability to do so because I know that everyone is someone’s family and without them, life would be like a paella without saffron: valueless.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Alessandra!
Sonam Dolma, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Nine days. That is how long my father and his brother survived on icicles as food in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet after their yaks died during the perilous journey. Just teenagers at the time, they spent nights lying in opposite directions rubbing each other’s feet to prevent hypothermia. Due to the Chinese Communist regime’s invasion of Tibet in the late 1950s and the genocide of Tibetans in the following decades, my father and uncle fled, walking from Eastern Tibet for months, across treacherous rivers and over snow-covered mountains to seek refuge in India. In 1997, I was born in a small refugee camp in Northern India called Bir that later evolved into a Tibetan refugee settlement as a result of the Tibetan diaspora.
Bir was a rural, village-esque place where we shared paths with cows and goats more often than cars and bikes. The smell of cow dung pervaded the air along the dirt paths my cousin and me, our oil-slicked hair pulled into tight double braids, traversed to and from the nearest Indian elementary school. I returned home from school one day to a strange stillness as my parents wept. My grandfather had passed away from an unknown lung condition with persistent fever and bloody coughs. We now know it was tuberculosis. Underserved and under-resourced, illness and premature death were common in Bir as the sole clinic had only one Tibetan physician providing care for the entire refugee settlement, and the nearest hospital was two hours away . . .
But just as it is more advantageous for our fingers to be different lengths to optimize the functionality of our hands, the same is true for physicians from different walks of life contributing to the welfare of our increasingly heterogeneous communities. Through my own upbringing in an underserved Tibetan refugee settlement, I have recognized the indispensability of decreasing barriers to health in vulnerable populations. During these turbulent times, we are beginning to grasp the interconnectedness of our world—we are seeing how global health is affecting us at the individual level.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Sonam!
Julia Carlin, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine
I remember one particularly dark day, tears rolled down my face as I sat in my room. My dog licked the tears off my cheeks, acutely aware that something was very wrong. That was the day I contemplated my life. What it would look like to take it.
I didn’t. Thankfully.
A few months after attempting [suicide], I got a call saying my sister was [in] a coma due to septic shock, complications from what was thought to be a bad combination of the flu and a urinary tract infection . . . She was given a 1% chance of survival, her body attached to a ventilator keeping her alive. I remember sitting in the hospital room in full PPE being scared, alone, so confused, and, more than anything, feeling guilty. Feeling guilty that just a few months earlier I attempted to take my own life, and now here was my perfect, older sister fighting for hers. I wished more than anything that I could give her my life. I felt that she deserved it more than I did.
It was at that moment I looked up and saw this ball of pure joy come bouncing down the hallway. His tail was wagging, his tongue was out, and he had his head held high, as any proud golden-retriever service dog would in their time of duty. I remember bursting into tears as the service dogs finally reached us in their rounds along the ICU because it was the first time I felt hope since entering the hospital.
A few years later in my undergraduate career, I frequently questioned why so much pain and suffering existed in the world. I developed a personal obligation to protect the animals that once protected me . . . Now, I am a third-year veterinary student . . . We human beings can learn a lot from our four-legged friends. We can learn to find joy in the simple things: a lazy day on the couch, a delicious treat, the noise of a loved one coming through the door. We can learn to give love freely, play outside daily and sometimes just be an open ear to people who need it.
Read the rest of the essay here. Congratulations to Julia!
Thanks again to the applicants, judges, WCI staff, and especially the sponsors funding this scholarship. Come back tomorrow to hear about the winners in the Financial category of the WCI Scholarship!