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Award Brings Minority Scholar Closer to Goal of Giving Back

Marcus Darrel Jennings

Marcus Darrel Jennings, a second-year medical student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine in Memphis, is a proud recipient of a Minority Scholars Award from the AMA Foundation.

“I am a first-generation college student striving for a good medical education,” Jennings says. “I was ecstatic when I learned that I had been awarded the scholarship. There were so many strong candidates from the University of Tennessee that I couldn’t imagine how stiff the competition was on the national level. I will always remember hearing the message from Dina [Lindenberg, AMA Foundation program officer]. My heart skipped a beat.”

The AMA Foundation offers the Minority Scholars Award in collaboration with the AMA Minority Affairs Consortium, with support from Pfizer Inc. A total of 12 Minority Scholars Awards are given annually, each in the amount of $10,000. The award was created to encourage more diversity in medicine.

The scholarship fully paid Jennings’ 2008–2009 tuition loan. Since the AMA Foundation was established in 1950, it has provided nearly $60 million in grants to the nation’s medical schools and to students who want to be physicians.

“What the AMA Foundation is doing with this award is so awesome,” Jennings says. “It’s heartwarming to know that so many people are so willing to lend a hand.”

Jennings grew up in inner-city Memphis in a single-parent home. His grandmother helped raise Jennings and his two siblings while Jennings’ mother worked three jobs.

“My mother and grandmother tried to teach us the importance of an education,” says Jennings. “Watching my mother work three jobs made me ask some hard questions: What do I want to do for myself, where do I want to see myself, what do I want to provide for my children and how do I want to live my life?”

Jennings went the extra mile and took advantage of advanced-level classes. He skipped a year in high school to graduate early. His high school counselor suggested slowing down, asking what he wanted to do in such a hurry. Jennings responded that he wanted to go to medical school and be a physician.

Jennings went on to attend Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, a school he selected because it has had, and continues to have, the highest African American placement rate into medical schools each year.

Jennings hopes to do a Harvard Medical School general surgery residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, followed by a vascular surgery fellowship. “I would like to become an academic vascular surgeon,” says Jennings. “I would like to train future medical professionals and work on the admissions committee to help increase the recruitment of underrepresented social groups entering the medical field at that institution. I would like to do pro bono surgery. That’s how I would like to make my mark.”

Jennings is very grateful to the AMA Foundation and the people who have made contributions to the AMA Foundation scholarship programs. The generosity of others is helping Jennings live his dream.

“I feel like my success is an opportunity for me to help others succeed. I would like to be a role model for somebody some day,” Jennings says.

Jennings plans to volunteer in inner-city schools to encourage students who are interested in science and math to look into medicine. “First you have to believe in yourself,” he says, “and I believe I could help with that.”

To learn more about how you can help a medical student, contact Judi Peters at judi.peters@ama-assn.org or (312) 464-4200.