08.03.20 Scholarships

AMA Foundation and Vandenberg Health Equity Fund announce Peck Health Equity Scholarship Recipients

August 3, 2020

CHICAGO – The American Medical Association Foundation (AMAF) today announced that Nichole A. Smith and Michael T. Rabaza are recipients of the 2020 David Jones Peck MD Health Equity Scholarship, awarded annually to medical students who demonstrate a commitment to addressing health disparities and promoting health equity in marginalized and minoritized communities. The $10,000 scholarships are underwritten by the Vandenberg Health Equity Fund.

The 2020 Peck Scholars:

Nichole A. Smith is a rising fourth year student at The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Ms. Smith’s current career aspirations lie within the field of internal medicine, with a special interest in trauma-informed primary care. As a medical student, she has already brought attention to important issues and barriers that prevent health equity in underserved communities. Upon graduating from the University of Chicago, she hopes to remain affiliated with an urban academic medical center both for residency and as an attending physician.

“I see myself remaining involved in community engaged research unpacking discrimination, trauma, and structural violence as it impacts the health of urban communities like Chicago’s South Side,” said Ms. Smith. “Health inequity is a reality, and our highly marginalized populations hold more knowledge than the most accomplished academic researcher ever could. But the truth is that data drives policy, and as such I vow to use my evergreen curiosity for research methods to forward the movement towards systems-level change.”

Ms. Smith’s commitment to health equity includes a corresponding commitment to increasing the diversity of the health care workforce. “I hope to reach and invest in the many talented, underrepresented minority youth who could leave indelible impressions on the medical field if given the chance,” said Smith. “While diversity in the medical workforce has surely seen strides since the days of Dr. Peck and his fellow pioneers, there is still room for change. True equity looks like an academic table with seats for physicians and scientists of color, from low income backgrounds, and of all genders and sexualities.”

Michael T. Rabaza is a rising fourth year student at University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. Mr. Rabaza is planning a career in Radiology upon his anticipated graduation in May of 2021. He embodies the characteristics of a physician whose mission is to bridge the gap between individuals who do not have access to health care or those who are vulnerable to environmental risks such as poverty, drugs, and financial repression.

Having been born in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood and raised in various neighborhoods in south Chicago and the south suburbs alike, Mr. Rabaza has seen firsthand the pitfalls that often afflict the people of these communities such as gang violence and drug abuse. Michael’s personal experiences have influenced his development as a medical student and future physician.

“I lived in a community where the concept of health care was alien to most, and my personal interaction with the health care system was essentially nonexistent,” said Mr. Rabaza. “I never had a doctor growing up and never knew anyone who did. We didn’t have health insurance, so getting sick just meant another expense we couldn’t afford. Individuals living in underserved and impoverished communities are exposed to ambient levels of emotional and physical stress that many physicians can simply not imagine. Not only can I imagine these conditions, I have lived them and am painfully aware of their effects on health equity.”

The David Jones Peck MD Health Equity Scholarship was established in 2018 by AMA General Counsel Brian Vandenberg in honor of David Jones Peck, MD, the first African American doctor to graduate from an American medical school – Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1847. The AMA was founded in Chicago that same year.

“Nichole Smith and Michael Rabaza are remarkable med students who have already demonstrated extraordinary leadership in addressing the health disparities that plague so many of our communities,” said Vandenberg. “They exemplify  the type of students for whom the Peck Health Equity Scholarship was established.”

In addition to the David Jones Peck MD Health Equity Scholarship, the Vandenberg Health Equity Fund has endowed the following medical school scholarships:

  • Native American Center for Health Professions (NACHP) Scholarship for Advancing Health Equity, established in 2020 and awarded annually with preference given to medical students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who are members of a federally- or state-recognized Native American tribe and/or who demonstrate a commitment to address health disparities that impact Native American populations.
  • DREAM MD Equity Scholarship, established in 2020 and awarded annually to a medical student beneficiary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and/or a first-generation immigrant to the United States.

To apply for these and other AMA Foundation scholarships during the next cycle of applications, you can do so by visiting our website in December. To learn more about our scholarship program, click here for more information.

Since 1950, the AMA Foundation has been a leader in health care philanthropy with programs that advance public health and medical education. As the philanthropic arm of the world’s largest physician organization, the AMAF has awarded more than $121 million in grants and scholarships, demonstrating nationwide programmatic excellence.

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